To fulfil the ambition of a six-fold expansion in electricity generated by onshore wind farms by 2020, it will be necessary to build another 4,000 wind-turbines which amounts to about one a day for the next 12 years. Including offshore turbines, a grand total of 11,000 will be needed by 2020, in order to hit European renewable energy targets. The U.K. currently has 2,000 onshore turbines and those opposed to them claim that rural areas will be "blighted" by their proliferation and that they are "less reliable" than those placed out at sea. In May the British government announced its intentions for another 7,000 offshore turbines, which is one of the most ambitious civil engineering projects for decades.
There is, as noted, and unsurprisingly, opposition to the whole enterprise, but changes in laws regarding planning are expected to facilitate the fruition of these proposals by developers. If these efforts are genuine, in the face of energy-shortages, then it might be a reasonable compromise to sacrifice some of the braking-power to building projects in the interests of bridging an energy-gap, albeit that lax laws will undoubtedly be abused by other kinds of "developer".
The EU target for renewable energy means that 15% of "energy" (I think that means "electricity" rather than "energy", which amounts to just under one fifth of the U.K.'s total "energy" bill, 40% of the rest coming in the form of transportation fuel) and will cost this nation £100 billion, coincidentally a little less than the country's annual welfare bill, which is completely unsustainable.
According to a new report on green energy to be published next week, an area the size of Essex will need to be planted with crops to supply fuel for power stations, while it is conceded that it may not be practical to meet the EU target due to a "chronic shortage of engineers able to build wind turbines". Perhaps our "new universities" will return to their roots as technical colleges and polytechnics who were very successful in teaching useful arts, rather than churning-out "graduates" in a diversity of impractical subjects that will prove a dubious luxury in the coming years, when innovation is required. The encroaching energy crunch will almost certainly forge an overdue reformation of the British higher education system which was reconfigured almost two decades ago in order to expand student numbers in the interests of inclusiveness and "education, education, education" as Mr Blair promised them all. "They" are all now massively in debt, to a tune of typically £15,000, as a consequence of top-up-fees and student loans.
The report proposes an increase in the use of biomass, e.g. wood, agricultural waste, straw and energy crops (the size of Essex?) to fire power plants. Here is a condensed version of a few interesting facts from it:
*Up to 4,000 more onshore and 7,000 offshore turbines by 2020.
*1,300 square miles (3,250 km^2) of the U.K. for growing crops to fire power stations (5% of total crop-land area)
*Grants and incentives for solar panels for 1/4 all homes.
*Grants for domestic wind turbines and ground-source heat pumps.
*Local authorities to collect waste food to generate methane for power stations.
*The renewable energy transition will result in 160,000 new jobs but it will cost £100 billion.
*Working at full-capacity (which they won't, see below) our present turbines could power 1.4 million homes.
*It takes 6-8 months to pay-back the energy outlay in building a wind-turbine.
*The turbines need wind-speeds of between 10 and 33 miles per hour (16 and 50 kmh) and are idle for up to one third of the time.
*38 new wind farms are currently under construction and another 124 have planning permission to go ahead.
*One line of criticism is that we should be concentrating on insulating homes to make them more energy-efficient and use less power. I agree that energy-efficiency is paramount but so is energy supply. We just shouldn't waste it.
Shaun Spiers, CEO of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: "[Installing more onshore wind turbines] may be sacrificing our landscape just to allow people to fly and drive more." I don't understand the connection between electricity production by wind or other means and transportation, since the latter uses liquid fuels and we don't have electric vehicles, or versions that run on hydrogen made from electricity etc. As things stand, all the scheme in the report can do (if it can) is to result in using less fossil fuel to make electricity. All other problems, especially those pertaining to keeping transportation going appear to remain. Equally, I don't understand it when Mr Brown says that more nuclear and renewables will help to break our dependence on oil. How exactly? How can electricity substitute (and quickly too!) for oil?
Also, in regard to fabricating one new wind turbine installation per day, what exactly is the present capacity to build them? Far less than that almost certainly, and so how will this be expanded across the U.K. and indeed across Europe? It is the rate of building completely new manufacturing capacity that sets the clock for the expansion of renewables and all other technologies. Once again the lack of engineering capacity appears to provide a bottleneck to this scenario.
"Ministers want a new wind turbine built every day for 12 years to meet new EU green targets." By David Derbyshire. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1028447/Ministers-want-new-wind-turbine-built-day-12-years-meet-EU-green-targets.html