Wind generation – A fair weather friend?


The Daily Telegraph letters’ page is normally dominated by either the eclectic or by the disgusted of Tunbridge Wells brigade.

However, a letter by one Dave Cooper published last Saturday struck me. Writing from Callander in Scotland - famous as the location of Tannochbrae in the BBC’s classic Dr Finlay’s Casebook series - Mr Cooper confirmed that, after a very cold night, not one of the 20 odd windmills visible through his windows was working.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister - in true Dad’s Army style - was telling the electorate ‘don’t panic’ about the availability of gas supplies, although the UK’s storage capacity is minimal. Furthermore, the Government has just launched Round 3 of its ultra-ambitious off-shore wind generation programme. This Round seeks to raise off-shore wind generation capacity by 32,000 MW, with the potential for 6,400 turbines to be installed.

With the EU’s top two utilities – EdF and E.On – weighed down by a combined net debt of £70 billion, notwithstanding the heavy investment requirements in their domestic markets, the chances of these targets being achieved within a decade are minimal. Indeed, in the words of Dad’s Army commander, Captain Mainwaring, ‘we are branching into the realms of fantasy’.

What is paramount for the UK is new base-load generating capacity. Hence, every effort must be made to persuade the UK’s big six integrated suppliers – EdF, E.On, RWE, Iberdrola, Scottish and Southern Energy and Centrica – to invest in new nuclear-builds.

As set out in last year’s ASI publication – Re-energizing Britain - long-term off-take contracts created by the imposition of a Low Carbon Obligation on electricity suppliers, a Treasury debt indemnity to reduce the cost of capital and pro-active efforts by the Government to minimise planning delays are key.

Incidentally, have any bloggers, like Mr Cooper, seen non-operational wind turbines during the recent cold spell?