FAQ - Top 10 Myths
Top 10 Myths
However, a system known as the Renewables Obligation has been introduced across the UK to encourage energy generation from renewable sources. It places an obligation on UK suppliers of electricity (utilities companies) to source an increasing proportion of their electricity from renewable sources. This proportion will rise to 15% by 2015/16.
Suppliers meet this obligation by purchasing renewable electricity from an accredited generator, along with a Renewables Obligation Certificate (ROC) for each megawatt hour (MWh) of energy purchased.
The ROC demonstrates to Ofgem the supplier's compliance with their annual obligation to purchase renewable electricity. While the price of the renewable electricity remains pegged to the wholesale price of electricity regardless, the price of ROCs sold by generators is related to their availability compared to demand.
If the UK is not producing enough renewable energy, ROCs will be expensive, but if the UK is meeting or beating its annual targets, prices will be generally low.
Suppliers unable to obtain sufficient ROCs pay a fine or “buy-out fee”, set by Ofgem each year. The total buy-out fees gathered each year are then shared out among those companies presenting ROCs to Ofgem - acting as an incentive to companies to buy ROCs, rather than opt for the buy-out option.
In addition, it is worth considering that other forms of energy generation, for example new nuclear power stations, are heavily subsidised at the construction stage by government. When radioactive waste from nuclear plants is disposed of, or the plants themselves are decommissioned, the enormous cost – to the tune of billions of pounds – is funded by the taxpayer.
The most recent position stated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) can be found at http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/policy/windfarms/ and states “If wind farms are located away from major migration routes and important feeding, breeding and roosting areas of those bird species known or suspected to be at risk, it is likely that they will have minimal impacts.”
Whilst we accept there are differing views on this issue, a case study undertaken by Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC) of the Crystal Rigg wind farm in East Lothian found “no evidence of a relationship between proximity to a wind farm and changes in property prices.” We understand the concerns of some people but agree with the Royal Chartered Institute of Surveyors that there is no definitive answer to this question.
Wind energy's role in combating climate change is not a matter of either/or. The UK will need a mix of new and existing renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures. However, wind energy is the most cost effective renewable energy technology available to generate clean electricity and help combat climate change right now. Furthermore, building a strong wind industry will facilitate the development of other renewable technologies to commercial viability.
The cost of generating electricity from wind has fallen dramatically over the past few years as capacity rises. Wind energy is now competitive with new coal and new nuclear capacity, even before any environmental costs of conventional generation are taken into account. The average cost of generating electricity from onshore wind is now around 3-4p per kilowatt hour, competitive with new coal (2.5-4.5p) and cheaper than new nuclear (4-7p).
The UK has around 40% of the total European wind resource making it a free and widely available fuel source, therefore once the wind farm is in place, there are no fuel or waste related costs.
All forms of power generation require backup and no energy technology can be relied upon 100% of the time. The UK's transmission system already operates with enough back-up to manage the instantaneous loss of a large power station.
The key point is that when wind turbines are producing electricity, they displace power from ‘dirtier’ sources like coal and nuclear power stations.
In 2009, power from wind could generate over 3.6MW of our electricity demand – saving an incredible 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from conventional power stations.
Modern wind turbines produce electricity 70-85% of the time, but they generate different outputs depending on wind speed. Over the course of a year, an average wind turbine will generate about 30% to 40% of the theoretical maximum output. This is known as its load factor. However, the load factor of a new power station is generally less than 50%, as most of the generated energy from burning fossil fuels is lost in the form of heat.
Wind turbines are one of the few renewable energy sources that can produce electricity on a large scale. At the moment, other renewables like solar power can only generate small amounts of electricity, while new technologies such as wave power are still in their infancy.
Wind power has the primary role to play in achieving the UK's carbon reduction targets. The UK currently emits 560 million tonnes of carbon dioxide CO2 every year and the Government target is to cut this by 60% by 2050.
In a year just one modern wind turbine will produce around 9,000,000 units of electricity - enough to power around 1600 households - and save over 6,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions
Wind farm developers do not have a free rein to develop in any location. Many factors must be taken into account before submitting a planning application, including environmental and visual impact assessments to ensure the effects of any development are minimised. Much of the UK's countryside is protected from any form of development for environmental, military, aviation and wildlife reasons. There are also substantial areas of the UK that are designated National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which cannot be developed. The scarcity of suitable grid connections also means that wind farms sites are limited to specific areas of the UK landscape.
There is no evidence to suggest this. The UK's first commercial wind farm at Delabole received 350,000 visitors in its first ten years of operation.
In a 2008 study for the Scottish Government, Economic Impacts of Wind Farms on Scottish Tourism, three quarters of tourists surveyed felt wind farms had a positive or neutral effect on the landscape. 97% said wind farms would have no impact on their decision to visit Scotland again.
A 2002 MORI poll which interviewed tourists at scenic locations around Scotland found 95% said the presence of wind farms in the area would make them more likely or no less likely to visit the area. Only 2% said it would make them less likely to visit. The poll also showed that 80% of tourists would be interested in visiting a wind farm.