"The arms that you wield now are not such as your forefathers wielded; but they are infinitely more effective, and infinitely more irresistable" ~ Cymru Fydd leaflet, 1890

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Renewable UKs Taff Department.

The question itself was fairly simple, how many turbines will be built in Wales? But the interviewee squirmed and dodged the question despite being asked over and over again. It made for uncomfortable listening, which was a pleasant surprise considering this was Radio Wales doing the interview.
"A wind farm of mass destruction", pic - VisitWalesNow

Llewelyn Rhys, boss of the Taff Department over at Renewables UK was steadfast in his avoidance although he did offer a teaser so that anyone with a basic grasp of maths could make a guess. But this is Radio Wales we're talking about so instead of doing the sums himself the presenter just shouted "ballpark figure", even more awkward.

So let's do the maths that Radio Wales couldn't do. Llewelyn told us that the Welsh Government has set a target of achieving 2000MW from onshore wind by 2025. When refusing to answer how many turbines that equates to, Llewelyn gave us this little tidbit.

That's quite a simplistic formula, a typical industrial turbine generates between two to 2.5MW but turbines generate a range of different outputs...

So here's where anyone with basic maths would be able to work out that 2000 divided by two equals 1000. By using Renewable UKs own figures they are trying to convince us to build up to 1000 turbines across Wales. I say "up to" because Llewelyn did say "two to 2.5".

But, let's not trust Llewelyn just yet. He is representing the wind farm robber barons after all. So using the data from here and here I've compiled this little table which shows "turbines that generate a range of outputs".
Typical huh?
Remember that the output is the maximum total output, all the turbines would have to be running at full capacity to hit those figures. But even if we discount the two at the lower end of the scale (0.3 and 0.72) you're left with an average of 1.91MW per turbine. Which leaves us with a figure less than Llewelyn claimed. It may only be 0.9 less than his lower figure but in order to get 2000MW at 1.91MW per turbine you'd need 1052 turbines. That equates to at least one extra wind farm, dumped on a community in Wales that doesn't want or need the turbines. If you compare it to his upper figure (2.5MW) that equates to 800 turbines needed.

To me that's a big difference, 200-250 turbines worth of a difference. That's alot of extra wind farms that we don't want and don't need.

So Mr Rhys, please tell us why we should believe your claims about the financial benefit to Wales when you are not capable of being honest with something as simple as the amount of windfarms they want to dump on us?

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Edit - Whilst cleaning up spam I accidentally deleted some comments from this post. They were mainly mine but I may have deleted some others. I apologise if so.


  1. One of the problems with the Welsh Government is that they keep making a mess of their calculations. In fact, it's obvious that they don't understand them. When TAN 8 was produced in 2005, the installed capacity upper limit (and, according to Carwyn Jones in June 2011, this definitely was an upper limit) was 1,120 MW.

    However, when "A Low Carbon Revolution" was published in 2010, the Welsh Government had in fact raised the limit to 1,875 MW on an assumed 30% capacity factor. This, of course, is far too optimistic. If we use a more realistic 26%, it equates to 2,163 MW installed capacity. The details are in this post from July 2011.

    I think we should (if we had the power to decide energy policy for ourselves) limit our onshore wind capacity to the original TAN 8 figures. This is because the potential from offshore wind is far greater than could realistically have been envisaged when TAN 8 was produced, and the output from offshore windfarms like Gwynt y Môr and the even larger Atlantic and Celtic Arrays will dwarf any output from onshore wind farms.

    Of course we should play our part by generating the electricity we need from renewable sources—that's why it's wrong to say that Wales doesn't want or need windfarms—but we are currently on course to produce more electricity than we consume from onshore and offshore wind alone, irrespective of other forms of renewable generation. Doing what we need to do is one thing (even those who don't like wind turbines should understand the need for them) but doing more than we need to do is only something that we should do if we in Wales get a direct benefit from it.

  2. Most of the electricity generated in Wales is from coal and gas-fired power stations. They have severe implications for climate change. The key is to replace these fossil fuels with renewable energy.

  3. Scotland produces 3X as much renewable energy per head as Wales. Electricity is a commodity which can be sold for profit; why limit ourselves to 'what we can use'? Do we limit the sheep we produce to only those eaten by Welsh mouths? Do we limit our tourism capacity to only Welsh tourists?

    See figure 5, page 14 (http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/cplan/sites/default/files/PromotingRenewableEnergyUK.pdf)

  4. It's true that Wales generates more electricity than we need, Stu. However we certainly aren't producing enough to power Wales "many times over". It's hard to be precise because of new power stations like Pembroke coming online and one reactor at Wylfa now shut down, but the 2011 figures (from this document) are that we produced 27 TWh, exported 4 TWh and consumed 18 TWh.

    The problem, as 09:38 notes, is that most of this electricity is still produced from dirty sources (either in terms of CO2 or in terms of the waste it produces). In 2011, 40% was from gas, 23% from coal, 20% from nuclear and only 8% from renewables. We need to, and can, produce more than all the electricity we need from renewables. But we're nowhere near that yet. However we will get there when (or if) the currently proposed windfarms go ahead, but the schemes that will really make a difference are offshore, not onshore.

    To 09:44, I would simply repeat the last sentence of my earlier comment. I have no objection at all to Wales exporting electricity, but said that we should only do it if we get a direct benefit from it. Of course electricity can be sold at a profit. The question is what proportion of that profit flows into local economy of the area in which the electricity is produced and into the Welsh economy as a whole. We have an obligation to produce our own electricity cleanly, even if it doesn't bring us great financial benefits; but when it comes to producing clean electricity on behalf of our neighbours, we have to weigh up whether we are getting enough benefit to justify it.

    I like what Scotland is doing in terms of renewables, and only wish we had the power (sorry) to determine our own energy policy. They're doing better than you suggest, for the graph you refer to is installed capacity per head rather than actual production. When I worked the figures out for 2009 (here) Scotland generated four times as much per head than Wales, though we produced more than twice as much per head than England.

    But we should also bear in mind that Scotland is nearly four times as big as Wales. For our geographical size, we actually have a greater density of onshore wind turbines then they do: 2.39 turbines per 100 sq km as opposed to their 1.64. However this is nowhere near as dense as some other countries: Denmark has 10.85, Germany 5.95, the Netherlands 5.54 and Spain 3.39. See here. So let's not beat ourselves up about not doing our share in terms of onshore windfarms. Instead, I firmly believe we should concentrate more on exploiting the one resource we have in abundance which they don't: tidal range ... in the form of tidal lagoons, of course, not a barrage.

  5. I have to say I lean much more to MH than to Stuart. I understand some people are against wind power being expanded, but I think many of the assumptions are wrong. I don't particularly see the need to go beyond our Tan 8 targets. But Wales needs to generate more renewable energy, and onshore wind is one of the most effective forms. These are not foreign or colonial targets that have been forced on us. They have been agreed by elected Welsh Governments including coalition governments.

    To go back to something MH said, we need to accept the normality of wind power (pretty much every country is putting them up) and move the debate on to the other forms of renewables that we haven't developed yet, and ideally get alot more Welsh Government and public involvement in those resources so it's not just left to the markets and to foreign companies. We've missed the boat on getting an indigenous onshore turbine manufacturing industry, unlike Denmark (with the exception of the one factory in Chepstow), but we could do alot better for solar manufacturing, offshore stuff, lagoons maybe.

    Even though Wales is a small country we cannot allow this to excuse our share of the necessary commitment to grow renewable energy targets. And outside of a handful of areas, there is consistent public support for renewable energy, including wind turbines. The idea that every other country keeps putting them up but Wales somehow stops, is fantasy stuff. I'm fed up of Wales missing the boat and want us to actually be good at the next wave of technologies that come after wind.