Among the many myths about wind power, one that anti-windfarm protesters love to trot out is the theory that wind alone can never power the UK, and that backup sources, like nuclear, will always be needed to ‘bail out’ unreliable wind.
In fact, a comprehensive study undertaken by the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University in 2005 concluded that this was a long way from the truth. And that is without factoring in reduced consumption from lifestyle changes, improved house insulation, solar and hydro electricity production.
The study analysed hourly wind-speed measurements taken at sixty locations across the UK by the Met Office between 1970 and 2003. The results indicated that wind power is at its greatest during the winter, is on average stronger during the daytime than at night and would deliver some two-and-a-half times as much electricity during periods of high demand than periods of low demand. So when the demand for electricity is greatest, the wind happens to be blowing at its best!
The Oxford University study proved that a range of wind farms in a variety of locations would provide stability of supply – far more than the current reliance on nuclear and fossil fuel powered stations. When a nuclear power station has to go offline, which happens frequently, the National Grid has to battle to maintain a uniform supply across the network. A few scattered wind farms not producing electricity would be compensated for by the others that are (how often is there no wind at all across Britain?).
Indeed, the National Grid announced in 2009 that it was perfectly capable of coping with the relatively minor fluctuations in wind-generated electricity supply. A diversified wind power system would, according to the 2005 Oxford University study, cater safely and efficiently for our electricity needs.
The ‘guess’ that wind farms would need backup from conventional power stations when the wind isn’t blowing simply doesn’t stand up to factual analysis. Like so many ANTI myths about wind power, it’s pure hot air.
Those who prefer to push the nuclear option need to answer these questions:
1. Can you guarantee no Chernobyl-style nuclear disasters, no accidental meltdowns, no Sellafield-type radiation leaks and no infiltration by terrorists or criminal groups?
2. Can you guarantee the supply of nuclear materials from the limited number of countries which actually mine them?
3. Are you prepared to continue subsidising the famously expensive nuclear power industry as well as paying extra for electricity?
4. What are you going to do about the radioactive waste products which remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years but which scientists have only figured how to store for about one hundred years?
5. What are you going to do when nuclear power stations simply cannot work – such as happened in France in recent summers?
The last question illustrates the truth that anti-renewables groups don’t want you to know ... that other countries might one day have to purchase safe, clean and cheap wind-generated electricity from us when their dangerous, dirty, dear and outdated nuclear systems let them down!
And don't forget, with regard to question 4. The nuclear industry in the 1980s sought planning permission to test drill in the Vale of Evesham. They wanted to investigate the suitability of our clay soil for long term storage of high level nuclear waste. We are not joking. There was even a competition to guess where they might choose to dump it. The prize was an original poem by none other than the celebrated Python - Terry Jones. If you would like a good chuckle, click here to see that poem.
"Needless to say that desperate idea was kicked well into touch but be well aware, the nuclear industry's proposed solutions to our problems are a potential nightmare for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. For their sakes, give renewables a chance and back your local wind farm."