Thursday, January 01, 2009

Windmills are not for turning

Mr Peter Mosley of Croachy, Inverness has a letter published today noting that he got into his car at 9am on Tuesday and the display said that the temperature outside was -13°C. On his journey he went past a windfarm and observed that the turbines were not turning. They had been the same for the previous few cold days.

Does this mean, he asks, that the 132,000 homes this installation claims to supply are without power, or do they manage to get electricity somehow from elsewhere? He thus concludes that, "Wind power does not appear to be a very good solution to the country's energy problem."

Mr Mosely is, of course, dead right. In the last three days, the coldest so far this winter and colder than we have experienced from some considerable time, we are effectively becalmed. As can be seen from the real-time wind map, barring the tip of Cornwall, where the wind speed is rated at 20 mph, the UK is effectively in the state of no wind generation. Here, the highest point in this part of Yorkshire, Emley Moor, the windspeed is officially recorded as zero.

We noted this same phenomenon last May, which was bad enough, but today in bitter winter conditions, the National Grid is under pressure. The demand for electricity will be high. Had we reached the mythical 35 percent – or whatever – wind generation target, we would now be in serious trouble.

Even then, this is but one consequence of the "weather". The Guardian has another. It headlines, "UK on cold weather health alert as temperatures tumble," telling us: "Fears that below-freezing temperatures could threaten vulnerable groups". Mortality is set to soar as the thermometer plunges. Our local paper also tells us that one in four pensioners, unable to afford their heating bills (inflated by the "greenie" levies), are spending their days in bed in order to keep warm.

Bizarrely, while The Daily Telegraph is telling us that, "New Year return to work could be hit by snow flurries," in the print edition there is a picture of the freezing conditions, alongside the statutory "warming story".

This is from an old favourite, the curator of Kew Gardens, who is telling us that, "Oak tree deaths herald new pest threat to traditional plants." Traditional British plants from the oak tree to the garden cabbage, he bleats, "are under threat because of the effects of climate change."

Well, Mr Curator, currently, "people deaths" are a much bigger problem. And unless the politicians get their act together and recognise that we have a crisis in the making if cooling sets in and becomes a trend, there will be many more – completely avoidable - "people deaths". But then, the chances of that are about as good as a windmill producing electricity on a day like this.