The wind always blows
2:17pm Thursday 24th October 2013 in Letters
‘Power to the People’
The article and ‘Comment’ (24/9/13)on the ‘Renewables Day’ held at Theatre Mwldan helped to let readers understand the complex area of energy policy and renewable power in the UK and Wales. My talk during the day was an attempt to place community energy into context, given the new opportunities for communities to wrest generation profits away from the ‘Big 6’ energy companies.
Whilst there are significant financial and other community gains achievable from community energy schemes, we cannot pretend that the skills of a local community group can match those of an energy company. In my talk on the day, I therefore ran through the pros and cons of other renewable energy technologies to compare them to developing a single community owned 500 Mw wind turbine on the basis that a single turbine project is relatively straightforward and achievable if a suitable site can be found. If we compare solar power , to give the same annual energy output it would need 9 and to give the same income, 17 acres of solar farm. As the turbine would only cost £1.25 million in total and solar farms about £800,000 per acre, the solar alternative would have huge finance costs nearly wiping out the annual community financial gain. Hydro schemes to give an equivalent output are large and rare, with no major local hydro opportunity available, in fact we are considering an interesting possibility to generate hydro electricity from the Mwldan river but only about 5 Kw output is available, i.e. enough for a couple of homes at a likely cost of £30,000 compared to 320 homes annually powered by the turbine. Wave and tidal energy technology is presently beyond any local community group as it is still mostly in commercial development phase, biomass or waste to energy developments require 20 years of guaranteed supply contracts before funding is available from banks, again beyond a local group to achieve, leaving only wind projects to deliver significant local income from community owned energy generation projects.
The other renewable energy technologies are also desperately required but will need commercial rather than community development. It is interesting to note the cover story of the 24/9/13 Tivyside and to compare the proposed 40 acre solar farm at Blaenporth offering a single payment of £39,000 community gain from a project cost of about £30million to the turbine offering £400,000 every year for at least 20 years.
Dave Haskell is again confused in his letter (1/7/13) as I am very much in favour of hydro schemes, it is just more sensible and locally profitable for community energy enterprises to concentrate on suitable larger wind turbine projects. Dave would also be wise, when old enough, to use the Department of Energy and Climate Change website which regularly publishes the statistics of UK energy, he would then know that yearly wind generation in Wales was not sufficient in 2012 at 214.3 Gwh to reverse the trend for the UK to risk national energy security by raising imported energy to 51.4% in 2103 from only 28% in 2010. The Suez canal can be blocked from local political unrest, drying up gas supplies to Milford Haven but the wind nearly always blows and the sun sometimes shines and both can be relied on forever.
BRIAN MARK Poppit