Tilting at Windmills in the U.K.?


As long as we’re discussing the relationship between CO2 and global temperatures . . .

The U.K.’s Telegraph reports that the British Wind Energy Association recently halved its estimate of the amount of the CO2 emissions saved by using wind turbines:

The move is a serious setback for the advocates of wind power, as it will be regarded as a concession that twice as many wind turbines as previously calculated will be needed to provide the same degree of reduction in Britain’s carbon emissions.

A wind farm industry source admitted: “It’s not ideal for us. It’s the result of pressure by the anti-wind farm lobby.”

For several years the BWEA — which lobbies on behalf of wind power firms — claimed that electricity from wind turbines ‘displaces’ 860 grams of carbon dioxide emission for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated.

However it has now halved that figure to 430 grams, following discussions with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Hundreds of wind farms are being planned across the country, adding to the 198 onshore and offshore farms — a total of 2,389 turbines — already in operation. Another 40 farms are currently under construction.

Experts have previously calculated that to help achieve the Government’s aim of saving around 200 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2020 — through generating 15 per cent of the country’s electricity from wind power — would require 50,000 wind turbines.

But the new figure for carbon displacement means that twice as many turbines would now be needed to save the same amount of CO2 emissions. . . .

Dr Mike Hall, an anti-wind farm campaigner from the Friends of Eden, Lakeland and Lunesdale Scenery group in the Lake District [says], “As we get cleaner power stations on line, the figure will get even lower. It further backs the argument that wind farms are one of the most inefficient and expensive ways of lowering carbon emissions.”

The revised calculation for the amount of carbon emission they save has come about because the BWEA’s earlier figure did not take account of recent improvements to the technology used in conventional, fossil-fuel-burning power stations.

The figure of 860 grams dates back to the days of old-style coal-fired power stations. However, since the early 1990s, many of the dirty coal-fired stations have been replaced by cleaner-burning stations, with a consequent reduction in what the industry calls the “grid average mix” figure for carbon dioxide displacement.

As a result, a modern 100MW coal or gas power station is now calculated to produce half as many tonnes of carbon dioxide as its predecessor would have done.

I wonder whether BWEA’s numbers include the CO2 emissions that result from the backing up of wind turbines by conventional power sources. More broadly, I wonder if they count any CO2 emissions from wind power at all — for instance the emissions that result from building and erecting turbines – when computing their estimates.

So I asked, and will let you know what I find out.


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