(Update to this post now added at the end…) AM reader, Ron H, kindly draws attention to Friday’s coverage of the wind farm cable corridor for the offshore development known as East Anglia One. This is the proposed first phase of the East Anglia Offshore Windfarm Zone (EAOW) being developed by Scottish Power Renewables and Swedish wind power operating company Vattenfall, with a planned installed capacity of 1,200MW.
It provides us with yet another example of the weasel words used to overstate the likely amount of power that will be generated. Compare and contrast:
We are working with stakeholders to realise the full potential of the zone, with initial studies identifying a target capacity of up to 7,200MW, which could provide enough clean, green energy for over 5 million homes.
– East Anglia Offshore Windfarm Zone
The full East Anglia Offshore Windfarm Zone, when built, is expected to power five million homes.
– BBC News
While EAOW carefully words its information to say that a capacity of 7,200MW could provide enough energy for over 5 million homes, it knows that an average offshore wind load factor of around 30-35% means the installation will never generate that amount of power. It is very likely to produce somewhere in the region of 2,300MW. But this doesn’t stop the BBC from exaggerating the amount of power that will be generated by the East Anglia Offshore Wind Zone, as it says the zone is expected to power five million homes.
Expected by whom? Certainly not the companies who are preparing to soak themselves in huge sums of money extracted from taxpayers and energy company customers. The distortion is blatant and dishonest. It underlines that on environmental and renewable energy matters (among many others) the BBC simply cannot be trusted.
For the long suffering taxpayer and energy consumer the issue is the cost of this vast array of wind turbines. The capital cost of wind is many times that of nuclear power and gas fired power. To achieve 2,300MW of power via nuclear plant has been assessed as one sixth the cost of wind, and gas works out more than 22 times cheaper than these sea based bird choppers. When viewed through that cost prism, is this wind farm folly something to get anything other than violently angry about?
Update: On Twitter, the CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Member of the UN’s Sustainable Energy For All and Visiting Professor at Imperial College, Michael Liebreich, (all that prestige!) has responded to this blog post thus:
I have enquired of the great man on what basis he is contesting the cost figures, asking for his figures and working, but at the time of writing he has not provided a response. The figures I have used to explain how much cheaper nuclear and gas are than wind, megawatt for megawatt of actual power generated, were explained by Christopher Booker in August last year:
[…] a Swedish firm, Vattenfall, has spent £500 million on building 30 five‑megawatt turbines with a total “capacity” of 150MW. What Shukman did not tell us, because the BBC never does, is that, thanks to the vagaries of the wind, these machines will only produce a fraction of their capacity (30 per cent was the offshore average in the past two years). So their actual output is only likely to average 45MW, or £11 million per MW.
Compare this with the figures for Britain’s newest gas-fired power station, recently opened in Plymouth. This is capable of generating 882MW at a capital cost of £400 million – just £500,000 for each megawatt. Thus the wind farm is 22 times more expensive, and could only be built because its owners will receive a 200 per cent subsidy: £40 million a year, on top of the £20 million they will get for the electricity itself. This we will all have to pay for through our electricity bills, whereas the unsubsidised cost of power from the gas plant, even including the price of the gas, will be a third as much.
What this does not take into account is that the gas fired power stations will last twice as long as the wind turbine equipment, so the replacement cost of the turbines would increase the cost still further – making offshore wind up to 40 times more expensive than gas, megawatt for megawatt.
Perhaps Liebreich will eventually get around to telling us which of these figures is ‘bollox’ and offer some evidence, rather than just play the part of Dr No.