Written evidence submitted by Dr G.M. Lindsay (EB 29)
As an engineer and active environmental campaigner here in Scotland, I am extremely concerned on two grounds associated with the rampant and reckless proliferation of industrial scale onshore wind turbines currently with no sign of abating.
1. Firstly I am concerned about the future of our hitherto attractive and much admired environment, specifically our countryside and scenic landscapes and, secondly, about the associated negative and precarious impact on the reliability of our electricity supply (in particular with grid stability). Hence my submission relates entirely to the onshore wind industry from a Scottish perspective and I declare my support for the earliest possible ending of onshore wind subsidy support which would require that Clause 66 be reinstated in full.
2. As has been stated very clearly by The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Minister of State for Energy and numerous non politicians, there is enough renewable capacity built and in the pipeline to meet targets. To continue putting at risk the infrastructure and therefore the economy of the whole UK (not just Scotland) by adding more and more unstable generation would constitute a wilful disregard for the country. Clearly the Government has recognised these threats and is working to rectify, as far as possible, a situation which if allowed to continue unrestricted, would have dire consequences for the UK and its people.
3. I would like to provide some numbers to provide a perspective on the scale of the problem.
Using data provided by DECC in their Renewable Energy Planning Database (Nov 2015 extract), I found the following information relating to commercial sized wind turbines:
5.098GW (2656 turbines)
1.587GW (581 turbines)
Approved awaiting construction
2.480GW (893 turbines)
Applications in progress (via local councils and Scottish government)
3.474GW (1147 turbines)
(Note – there are also a significant number of proposals at the scoping stage which are not included in the DECC database)
This would suggest that we could end up with double the number of currently operational wind turbines resulting in further and more severe landscape destruction in areas of the country already saturated with turbines (eg Caithness, Dumfries & Galloway, Ayrshire, Borders etc) plus an increasingly unreliable electricity supply.
4. Once Longannet closes at the end of March 2016, Scotland will be left with two ageing nuclear plants (which are not capable of providing the flexibility of back up required to cope with large fluctuations in wind generation), thousands of wind turbines, hydro and a gas fired power station at Peterhead. Further, Peterhead is not a contracted electricity generator but is only contracted by the grid to provide grid/voltage stability.
5. As is well known, wind generation is notoriously unreliable and provides no dispatchable (available when required) grid capacity. What happens when (as has happened on a number of occasions in recent months) the wind isn’t blowing and our wind turbines are producing virtually zero output? Yes, we have an interconnector with England (with a second due in 2017) but, since England is also closing coal fired generators at a rapid rate, also has ageing nuclear plants and France is considering reducing the quantity of electricity they export via the interconnector, will the required electricity be available to send to Scotland?
6. The stability of a grid with large scale, widely dispersed and intermittent (and at times ramping up and down significantly over very short time frames) wind generation is also a serious consideration. It is not unknown for electricity grids to fail under such circumstances and every additional turbine has the potential to increase this instability.