How many wind turbines was that?

by Mike Newland.



Every decent citizen remembers ‘hug a husky’. That pivotal moment in our national life when David Cameron threw off Tory nastiness and showed himself to be that caring and progressive man who would save us all from global frying.

Less remembered is ‘hug a chimney’ when Caring Cameron wrapped a wind turbine round his home chimney. No mere gesture politician, Dave put his money behind his fine principles and purchased a small fan claimed to produce electricity.

At one point these home turbines were being sold in supermarkets to a gullible public newly acquainted with alternative energy. They must work. Mr Cameron’s got one. He’d hardly be selling a pup would he?

The reality is that what looks like a large wind machine when poised over your house in reality produces so little electricity that these home power stations were little better than toys demonstrating the principle that there is indeed energy in wind. They were adult equivalents of the chemistry sets children were given in the 1950s before elf’nsafety killed off education.

Apart from anything else, the wind only blows sometimes. At others, a fan on your chimney is fair set to pull it down. Just like the regularly appearing pictures in newspapers of huge turbines in the countryside which have keeled over in gales.

One of the staples of newspaper coverage of wind power is the description of some new wind farm as having the capacity to supply 10,000 homes or some such. Invariably, the figure quoted is what you’d get if the wind were just right all the time. But the fact is that most of the time the weather is too calm or at the other extreme turbines have to be stopped or they blow up. The actual practical output is a fraction of that quoted and not even timed to coincide with use. The wind does not conveniently decide to blow just when everyone is boiling kettles for their evening tea. The newspapers should be ashamed for misleading people – and not just about that topic! You need other sources of energy to fill the gap apart from the sheer cost of wind power systems.

So how many turbines do we need to provide a viable national source of power?

Bring on Professor David MacKay of Cambridge University who’s written a book about it.

To provide one sixth of the nation’s power you’d need turbines covering the area of Wales! And wind is the source the Government has been largely relying on for its fantasy land of 20% of energy production from renewables by 2020.

Do the politicians who are plugging turbines know that? Do they care? The entire debate has been conducted for years on the basis of pretence. Most of the public seem to think that a small area of land here and there and we’d have enough power not to require coal, gas or nuclear power.

The politicians can’t be that ill informed – which strongly suggests that we are being subjected to yet another national confidence trick. It’s well known that there is lots of money to be made from the subsidies paid to wind farms and quite a few politicians seem to have their grubby hands in the money pit – as usual.

Nuclear and King Coal are the only realistic long-term sources for most energy supply without relying on massive and uncertain foreign imports of oil and gas. Fracking may help some but it’s not exactly dig a cheap hole and oil gushes out as in the heyday of plentiful hydrocarbons easy to access.

It really is time for reality to be faced.

10 thoughts on “How many wind turbines was that?

  1. Not only do we need coal and nuclear thorium but also waste-to-energy, marine energy – whether it be tidal energy or gradient salient energy as developed in Norway; geothermal energy as produced in Cornwall and micro-hydro-energy.

    1. The point is that those alternative sources will produce little energy compared to requirements. Far less than people imagine after a decade of propaganda.

  2. Apart from all the points made, the fact is that they are hideously huge and they disfigure the countryside wherever they are put – at least IMHO.

  3. We also need to run several exploratory drills to see if fracking advantages do in fact outweigh the problems.. And let some of them be in leafy areas of Sussex and Surrey and not just confined to the North West and North East.

  4. What about the solar panels on individual homes? They were promoted by the Government and seemed to work so well that they then backed down on the help given to install them. Yet another example of if it works, change it. Or did the big utilities get upset?

    1. The Government cut back the huge subsidy that’s all.

      Anyone can find out how much electricity you can expect to get from solar panels in our climate and how much they cost to put in. There is loads of information on the web. I went and did the math years ago. Over the year it’s amazingly little. That’s why it needs a subsidy.

      Look it up yourself. Spend a few hours.

      What you tend to hear about as with wind farms is peak output which bears no resemblance to average output.

      What I did realise is that solar water heating has far more potential because in principle the equipment is cheap. All it is – a radiator in a glass box and a small pump to move the warmed water. DIY possibilities.

      Project for those interested. Check the cost of say a 1 sq/m panel (Ebay for example) plus regulator and inverter and batteries and its output in various conditions.

      Yes you can run LED lights and the laptop etc but they use little power anyway. It’s all as overhyped as wind farms.

    2. These panels I find are unsightly as well. A ten year warranty only. To cover the cost needs to be at least that. Plus of course most small users would never cover the cost.

      What we do need is alternatives like a private generator for when power outages happen. Log burners and the such. Until that day we renationalise the utilities and subsidise them like the French.

  5. There is massive energy resource in the waves which pound our shores. I’m amazed that more effort isn’t made into recovering it.

    Queen’s University in Belfast was exploring this potential 40 years ago, but the effort seems to have died a death since then, probably cut due to lack of funds.

    1. Could not agree more Tim. Vast potential to provide power if we could find a cost effective way to harness wave power. As for solar panels I consider these a bigger eyesore than wind turbines.

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