Renew On Line (UK) 49

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue 148 March-April 2004

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Innovation Review- Beyond wind
2. Marine Energy Challenge
3. 35,000 jobs by 2020 ..but UKERC is delayed
4. Security of Supply…BBC turns the lights off
5. Government pushes ahead with renewables and carbon trading
6. Wind costs and benefits
7. ‘No’ to the Severn Barrage
8. Stalling on Micro-CHP and VAT
9. Mini-Hydo project blocked, Biofuels still pushed
10. Europe Roundup: Germany gets it right
11. World Roundup: wave power hits US, 100% renewable Japan
12. Nuclear News: Waste haunts Italy, who will get ITER?

6. Wind costs and benefits

In answer to a Parliamentary Question on Jan 5th, asking what was the average cost of wind-driven turbines in UK wind farms, and what the estimated amount of investment in wind farms was, Lord Sainsbury of Turville commented: ‘It is difficult to make generalisations about the costs of wind turbines, as this technology is advancing rapidly, with different makes and models being bought to suit the particular site. Costs will vary, for example, according to whether the project is onshore or offshore, and according to wind-speeds at the site. There will thus be differences between projects, but I understand that a rule of thumb in the wind energy industry is that new projects may currently cost an average of some £650,000 per megawatt of capacity installed, including the cost of the turbine, transport to the site, and erection and commissioning. Making use of this rule of thumb, rough approximations can be made of the replacement cost of currently operational wind farm projects: some £150 million for Wales; some £130 million for Scotland; some £100 million for England and some £45 m for Northern Ireland.’

Asked about what employment opportunities had emerged consequent upon the decision  to build wind farms in the United Kingdom he noted that  ‘The 2003 annual report of the Renewables Advisory Board includes an assessment of employment opportunities in the UK that could arise in the period to 2020, if wind energy and other renewables expand in accordance with energy White Paper aspirations. It is there estimated that by 2020 the renewable energy industry could sustain between 17,000 and 35,000 jobs, compared with some 7,700 jobs currently. A high proportion of these jobs would be in the wind energy sector.’

He  also noted that, according to British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) figures, there are 83 wind energy schemes currently generating electricity for the grid in the UK. These include single turbine installations, small clusters of turbines, and larger wind farms with 10 or more machines.

In addition to these projects, there are some commercial-scale wind turbines  serving specific businesses rather than generating power for the grid.

Wind & Bird Strikes

The anti-wind farm lobby has been making much of bird strikes in recent months- following the  discovery of the remains of a red kite, near a wind farm in Wales (see Observer 25/1/04). It’s a rare species, even rarer nowadays since, for example, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, more than a third of the red kite population in the north of Scotland had been illegally poisoned between 1989 and 1998.  By contrast, according to the BWEA, wind turbine surveys have found that bird strikes are in general around one per turbine per year.  That’s not surprising.  Birds tend to avoid moving objects and wind turbines are essentially bird scarers-except perhaps when they are not moving.   Then they are more like power lines which birds sometimes hit. However care has to be taken to avoid migratory routes where large numbers can flock. An infamous poorly sited wind farm in Spain is reputed to have killed 6000 birds in one year. See our Groups section  for RSPB’s view.

Highlands want a better strategy

In its reply to the Scottish Parliament’s enterprise and culture committee’s inquiry into renewables, John Rennilson, the Highland Council’s director of planning and development, said “More than 1,000MW of windfarm capacity is already at various stages from scoping to planning approval. The area already produces more renewable energy than it needs and most of the new development will go to meeting Scottish and UK renewables targets and to help compliance with the Kyoto agreement. We need a Scottish energy policy paper, which must include energy conservation. The present perceived dash for onshore wind in Scotland is taking place in a strategic policy vacuum. There are no sensible local targets set for each area, which would allow a sensible roll-out of development in the most appropriate locations.”

Councillor Bill Fulton added: “We should be offering discounts for using less energy and not for using more. We need to promote the use of solar power and pelletised waste paper to create heat and power. We don’t need the power up here and it’s unlikely we will get the benefits. A few people will get wealthy, but many will be disadvantaged by the scars the windfarms, the pylons and cables will leave on the landscape. It is also unlikely that we will get much of the work associated with these developments.”

But it wasn’t all just about limiting the impact of the  renewables programme. The Council also called on the Scottish Executive to set out a national strategy for developing renewable energy to prevent the North losing out on the benefits to be gained from such initiatives. Councillors warned that the emerging fabrication industry in the Highlands and Islands could be overrun by established fabrication yards in Denmark and Germany, without Executive intervention. Councillor Jimmy Gray said: “Companies from Denmark and Germany are winning fabrication contracts. They even take heavy-lift equipment from Denmark and Germany to install the towers and turbines rather than use equipment in the Highlands.”        

Source: Earthed Feb 2004  (

Community benefits

There should be local benefits from wind projects in Scotland as elsewhere.  The  Highland Council is investigating ways to support communities to set up their own windfarms or take a stake in renewable energy developments, with some arguing that the current approach by developers to community benefit was unsatisfactory given that they could be so profitable.

A report by IPA Energy Consulting suggested that after maintenance, transmission, construction, rates and insurance costs were taken out, for most windfarms the capital cost was repaid after four years, and the developer then quickly moved into sustained profit. A 100MW onshore windfarm, the size typical of many projects proposed in the Highlands, showed a profit of £225 million over 20 years. The report also showed that planning permission was easier in Scotland, with a 90% approval rate compared with 50% in England. An accompanying report by Council chief executive Arthur McCourt predicted that profit for developers was likely to remain high. The industry is offering about £1,000/MW in community benefit. However, Earthed noted, communities in the vicinity of the proposed development at Beinn Tarsuinn in Sutherland are negotiating a level of £2,500/MW.  Some have argued that if communities asked for too much that would drive developers away, but Earthed reported a councillors view that this was just ‘alarmist’. 

For a full report see Earthed Feb 04  (

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