On-Shore Wind

Last week the editor of the South Wales Evening Post asked Keith Ross, our candidate in Swansea West, to provide an article explaining why the Green Party is in favour of on-shore wind in the Swansea area.

The article was published on Wednesday, almost unchanged. Unfortunately it’s not available on the Evening Post website, so here’s the original (unedited) version:

Wind Energy Clean, Safe and Reliable

On 10 February six UK companies – Arup, Foster + Partners, Scottish and Southern Energy, Solarcentury, Stagecoach Group and Virgin – joined together to launch the second report of the UK Industry Task-Force on Peak Oil and Energy Security (ITPOES)(1).

The report, titled The Oil Crunch – a wake-up call for the UK economy(2), predicts that oil shortages, insecurity of supply and price volatility will destabilise economic, political and social activity within five years.

The Task-Force warns that the UK must not be caught out by the oil crunch in the same way it was with the credit crunch and says policies to address Peak Oil must be a priority for the new government formed after the 2010 election.

Due to government prevarication over a number of years, energy demand in the UK is rapidly approaching the point at which it will exceed supply. More and more energy experts are raising concerns about potential energy gaps within the next decade unless we take immediate steps to address the issue.

The government has recently given the go ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations in a misguided attempt to provide some sort of energy security. But leaving aside the arguments for and against nuclear, its clear that these new stations cannot be brought on stream in time to cover the predicted gaps in the next decade. Neither can that other supposed wonder cure, the Severn Barrage.

When faced with insecurity of external supply, it is axiomatic that we should look to our own resources. We need homegrown solutions, and we need them now.

The Green Partys answer is to take full advantage of our natural resources. We favour an expansion of offshore wind, tidal power, solar power, and yes, on-shore wind as well. This, coupled with reducing demand through greater efficiency, is the best way to give us energy security in the future.

Wind is just one part of this mix, but it will be an essential and central part; playing a role much like that of coal in the early days of mass electricity generation. And as with coal, Wales is well placed to be a major supplier of wind energy, with coasts, hills and valleys ideally suited to wind generation.

The need for maximum efficiency requires that major sites of generation be placed close to the areas of greatest demand in order to reduce the losses in long distance transmission. There is little point in placing wind farms in remote areas or miles out at sea, if a significant proportion of the energy generated is then needed to transmit the electricity to the centres of population. It makes much more sense to build wind farms close to the larger towns and cities. In South Wales, the optimum location for wind farms is on the hills around Swansea, Neath, Port Talbot, Bridgend and Cardiff.
One problem with wind is, of course, that the wind doesnt blow all the time. But it is almost always blowing somewhere in the UK, and usually somewhere in Wales.

With improvements to the National Grid, which is, after all designed to iron out the peaks and troughs of supply and demand for electricity, the problem of intermittency is easily solvable. Of course, being Greens, we would want the National Grid to be smarter and much more efficient. With modern technological expertise, it ought to be perfectly possible to design a smart grid which ensures that surplus electricity is transmitted over the shortest distance required, thus significantly reducing transmission losses.

There are also concerns about the safety of wind turbines and the impact on wildlife. It is true that blades have occasionally broken away from wind turbines and that birds have occasionally flown into turning blades and been killed. However, such incidents are rare and rather insignificant when compared to the impact of the single nuclear power station accident at Chernobyl, the cost of which we are still counting more than 20 years on.

Some people object to on shore wind because of the visual impact and the potential effect on tourism. Personally I think windmills are attractive gentle giants slowly turning in the breeze. I would far rather look out on a skyline littered with windmills than the prospect of more conventional power stations and pylons. Of course, other people have a very different view of windmills.

This is one of a number of difficult choices we are going to have to make if we are to continue to enjoy the comforts and luxuries that we currently take for granted. Sacrifices are going to have to be made for the sake of future generations, and the loss of a clear skyline is a small price to pay for ensuring that the lights stay on.

To provide for our energy needs in a future of dwindling fossil fuel supplies and restrictions on carbon emissions, we will need a variety of renewable forms of power, rather than dirty, non-renewable and less job-intensive forms of power supply, such as nuclear and coal.

The switch to renewable energy is not just an environmental imperative; it will also bring economic and social benefits. The Greens have proposed an immediate £44bn investment package, to create over a million new jobs in low-carbon industries within 2-3 years – jobs that will start building the 21st century energy infrastructure that we all need. 100,000 of those jobs could be created in Wales, providing security of employment as well as energy.

Wind is probably the most abundant source of natural energy in Wales, and it would be irresponsible of us not to take full advantage of it.

Keith M Ross
Green Party Candidate
Swansea West

Notes:
(1) http://peakoiltaskforce.net/
(2)
http://peakoiltaskforce.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/final-report-uk-itpoe s_report_the-oil-crunch_feb20101.pdf

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