Benefits of wind power
Over three quarters of UK adults now support the use of renewables to generate electricity, fuel and heat in the UK. Adjacent are some of the reasons that well sited onshore wind projects should continue to be developed and how they contribute to a low carbon, sustainable, energy supply for all.
Click on the adjacent boxes to reveal, below, some of the key benefits of onshore wind power
Wind is a sustainable source of power
A key goal of sustainability is to ensure that our present generation does not exhaust the resources available to us, and instead will leave future generations as well off, in terms of opportunity and resources, as we are now. Exploiting and burning fossil fuel resources is inherently unsustainable. Their use prejudices future generations both in terms of opportunity and by the fact they are a pollutant when burned. In contrast wind power is completely renewable and thus sustainable in the long term as well as having zero emissions. Wind turbines typically pay back the energy used in making and installing them in a maximum of 2 years. The UK is the windiest country in Europe, receiving around 25% of Europe’s wind resource. It therefore makes sense to capitalise on that and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Making use of this abundant renewable energy makes our lifestyles more sustainable and will help to preserve a high standard of living for generations to come.
Combating climate change
It is now commonly accepted by scientists that the threat of damaging, irreversible climate change is imminent: the major IPCC 2014 report commissioned by the UN stated that, “Rising rates and magnitudes of warming and other changes in the climate system, accompanied by ocean acidification, increase the risk of severe, pervasive and in some cases irreversible impacts.” (source: IPCC Summary for Policymakers) These include increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, extinction of large numbers of species and decreased food security.
The UN Climate Change Chief, commenting on the IPCC Report, pulled no punches in stating that, “the only safe path forward is to arrive at a carbon neutral world in the second half of this century. We cannot play a waiting game where we bet on future technological miracles and save the day - and why would we?” “Above all, governments must strengthen and expand bold policy incentives to reduce emissions”. (source: IPCC Press Release ref Report on Global Warming 13.04.14)
Environmental impacts are low
Wind energy has virtually no environmental impact in comparison to coal, gas, fracking and nuclear energy. Almost no carbon is released as a result of the operation of wind farms and wind turbines leave little or no lasting legacy once removed at the end of their useful life. There are some CO2 emissions relating to the manufacture and construction of wind farms but these effects are quickly negated once the turbines are operational. In contrast fossil fuel and nuclear plants produce emissions and waste which have damaging effects on humans and the environment. All applications for large wind turbines require a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment to be undertaken, based upon detailed surveys for a wide range of ecological and other factors, including noise and effects upon birds and rare species. At the end of their operational life wind turbines are removed and the land reinstated. A protected fund will also be set up to ensure that these reinstatement works take place quickly, to the satisfaction of both the landowner and the planning authority.
The more energy that we generate that is within our own control the less we shall require to import our energy from abroad. This means that we are less vulnerable to interruptions in supply and price volatility. This is particularly relevant in the case of gas which, in the latter part of 2014 generated 38% of the UK’s electricity supply. Much of that gas comes from politically instable parts of the world and of course the gas price is linked to oil prices which are increasingly volatile. Therefore the less we rely on imports, and instead make use of our abundant, sustainable wind power, the more we shall be able to resist price shocks and threats of energy shortages.
Onshore wind power is cost effective
Onshore wind power is the most cost effective renewable energy technology, having been refined and proven over many years. Offshore wind power is favoured by some but is inherently more expensive due to the difficulties of building and maintenance in a harsh marine environment.
In the UK all forms of electricity generation, including gas and coal, continue to receive government support through a mixture of tax reliefs and subsidies. Wind power also receives support but the level of support has been reduced significantly over the last ten years to the point where the support price for nuclear power will be significantly higher than that for onshore wind. In many developing countries wind power is now seen as the most cost effective form of new generation overall. Recent EU analysis has suggested that, “Onshore wind is cheaper than coal, gas or nuclear energy when the costs of ‘external’ factors like air quality, human toxicity and climate change are taken into account”. (source: Employment and growth effects of sustainable energies in the European Union, 2014)
Creation of jobs and investment in local communities
The wind industry in the UK, especially in Scotland, provides many people with skilled jobs. In 2014 RenewableUK published a report confirming that 15,400 people in the UK work full time in the wind energy sector. (source: Wind Energy in the UK State of the Industry Report 2014) When indirect jobs are included (companies that supply goods and services to the sector) the wind energy industry supports the employment of over 30,000 people with that number set to increase substantially if the UK commits to an energy economy that capitalises on our abundant renewable energy resources.
Local communities have benefited significantly from wind power projects. The Scottish Government has now set a recommended level for community benefit of £5,000 per Mega Watt, per annum for the lifetime of a project. Large wind turbines are typically between 2 and 3 Mega Watts. Therefore a 5 turbine wind development (between 10 and 15 Mega Watts) would pay £50,000 and £75,000 (index linked) to good causes in the local community, every year, for up to 25 years. This has had a very positive impact on many local communities, with facilities such as village halls and sports facilities being provided or refurbished. This is particularly welcome at a time when public funding sources are hard pressed. During the construction phase of a project there is typically also a significant boost for the local economy including opportunities for local tradesmen and businesses to play a supporting role in projects. This is something that Force 9 encourages in all of its projects.