Wind Turbines and Renewable Electricity Generation

There are now three wind turbines to the south of where I live. They have been erected in the past few weeks. To the east there is a set of eight turbines, at Kinglassie there are four, at Mossmoran there are nine with an extension mooted.

At Mossmoran.

At Mossmoran.

There are a few single, smaller and residential turbines I see when I drive around my local area. The south west of Scotland has a large number of turbines that I noticed when travelling down to Cumbria. Lewis has a lot of turbines as well. There are offshore turbines in Solway Firth. Wind power is here and doing well.

Sand banks are great for offshore wind farms - Robin Rigg in Solway Firth

Sand banks are great for offshore wind farms – Robin Rigg in Solway Firth

There is possibly as much resistance to wind turbines as there is in favour of them. At the outset, I should declare that renewable energy makes the only sense to me and wind turbine technology makes even more sense to me. The other declaration I should make is purely personal – I find these structures to be quite majestic, very elegant and extremely efficient in the generation of power.

·         In November 2014, CEO Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables released this statement (bolding is mine):

Historic milestone as new figures show renewables now Scotland’s largest source of power.
Renewables overtake nuclear to become largest source of electricity.
Renewable energy has become Scotland’s main source of power, new independent figures have revealed.
Records from the first half of 2014, the most recent period for which data is available, show renewables generated 32% more electricity than any other single source of power in Scotland.
In total, the renewables sector generated a record 10.3TWh (terawatt-hours), compared to 7.8TWh from nuclear generation – previously Scotland’s main source of electricity. The figures also show that coal and gas-fired electricity generation produced 5.6TWh and 1.4TWh respectively over the same six-month period. (Figures supplied by the National Grid)
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The announcement that renewables have become Scotland’s main source of electricity is historic news for our country, and shows the investment made in the sector is helping to deliver more power than ever before to our homes and businesses.
“This important milestone is good news for anyone who cares about Scotland’s economy, our energy security and our efforts to tackle climate change.
“Every unit of power generated from renewables means less carbon emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, decreases our reliance on imported energy and supports jobs and investment in communities across Scotland.
“The renewables industry has come a long way in a short space of time, but there is still plenty of potential for further growth.
“Offshore wind and marine energy are still in the early stages of development but could make a big contribution to our future energy needs if they get the right support from government. That support includes the delivery of grid connections to the islands, home to the UK’s very best wind, wave and tidal sites.”

WWF Scotland’s response to the news release was:  “Renewables overtaking nuclear power to become the largest source of electricity is certainly historic, and represents a major step on the way to Scotland becoming a 100 per cent renewable nation.
“Last month, while nuclear reactors were forced to shut because of cracks, Scotland’s renewables were quietly and cleanly helping to keep the lights on in homes across the country. Wind turbines in Scotland alone generated enough electricity to supply three millions homes in the UK – equivalent to 126 per cent of the electricity needs of every home north of the border.
“Put simply, renewables work and are helping to cut climate change emissions and create jobs in Scotland.”

So here are the graphs based on data

So here are the graphs based on data

Now I have to be impressed with the renewables energy sector here in Scotland. Who wouldn’t be? I have difficulty tackling the negative naysayers and their unsubstantiated quasi-arguments against wind turbines. Rather than my going through these quasi-arguments, I will cite the answers to the myths that purport, in the mouths of those who don’t like the turbines, to be truth with a capital T!
These are the common myths according to WWF:

Myth 1: Building a wind farm takes more energy than it ever makes

Myth 2: Wind farms are inefficient and only work 30% of the time

Myth 3: Other countries are moving away from supporting wind power

Myth 4: Wind energy needs back-up to work, resulting in increased emissions

Myth 5: Wind farms are expensive ‘subsidy harvesters’

Myth 6: Renewables contribute to fuel poverty

Myth 7: Most people do not support wind farms

Myth 8: Wind farms have a negative impact on tourism A small point – Gran Canaria is full of wind farms and also full of tourists. In fact tourism and cochineal are important to the economy of that wee windy island. And most of their power comes from the wind turbines.

Myth 9: Wind power does not create jobs

What is interesting is that most of the anti-turbine lobby probably applauds the work of WWF and Greenpeace and charities of similar ilk. My only thought is that confirmation bias gets in the way of impartial and realistic enquiry on the part of naysayers.

These links that I have provided are worth while looking at. The information is available and substantiated.

Scotland is the windiest country in Europe with around 25% of the continent’s wind source, according to Scottish Renewables

The other arguments propounded against wind turbines are pure silliness and smack of self-serving – property values diminish, an unscientific concept called ‘ultra-hearing’ means that even if you can’t hear anything, the sound the turbines make as the blades whizz around at 12 revolutions per minute (!) is doing your head in. Birds (who have been using the medium of air for thousands of years) can’t recognise blade movement and get killed. Excuse me!! The arguments pulled out of the hats of those who don’t want turbines really have no currency that stands up to any serious scrutiny. As my husband is fond of saying – Belief is meaningless to all but the believer; knowledge is meaningful and available to all. I guess I would add – ‘None so blind as those that will not see’ (Matthew Henry) – look him up.

Birds? How many are killed by cars? Over 100,000 The figures reported for bird strikes against windows are astonishing. It is often said that between 100 million and a billion birds die in the US each year after striking windows.
Hundreds of thousands are killed bashing their heads and breaking their necks against the colourless panes in our houses and offices. Birds don’t understand glass and are vulnerable to windows.

These are real dead birds. From window strikes.

These are real dead birds. From window strikes.

Bats?   Last week thousands of bats fell out of trees in Casino, New South Wales because the heat reached 44.1ºC (otherwise called an effect of climate change) and died.

Thousands of them dead from excessive heat wave

Thousands of them dead from excessive heat wave

A final point: what would the anti-turbiners suggest in place of renewable energy source(s) that is kind to the environment? Is there an alternative? I used to think that our energy requirements would need to be met by a combination of technologies – nuclear (fusion would be great but we haven’t been able to do that yet), wind, wave and geothermal. Whatever we end up with, fossil fuels have to be out of the mix. We have to decarbonise our electricity supply. That is what is non-negotiable. And that means no hydraulic fracturing for natural gas which is the next big thing in the central belt of Scotland.
And that’s another post that won’t be long in appearing.




4 comments on “Wind Turbines and Renewable Electricity Generation

  1. Rosie says:

    Good clear and detailed points of view, V. Thanks, and especially for debunking the myths. How people can hold onto myths that fit their ideas without wondering whether they might just be wrong!!
    My favourite rejoinder is: What if what I’m saying is true? At least there is a chance the conversation takes a slightly different direction, even if briefly…

    • Veronique says:

      Hi Rosie. I guess the problem with belief is that once someone becomes convinced that the belief he holds is true, critical thinking and continued enquiry just flies out of the window (if it was ever inside the window in the first place). 🙂 That’s why scientific enquiry never stops and nothing in science is so hard and fast as to not be able to be debunked using proper methodology and logic.

      My over-the-road neighbours maintain they can hear the first turbine south of us in the still of the night. Now – all I can think (because I know the allowable db rating and the maximum rotational speed as a function of the blade size) is that my neighbours are hearing something else they don’t want to hear and had never determined to listen to before. :). The turbine is about one kilometre away. To tell them?? Maybe one day and very gently. Maybe not.

  2. Jean says:

    Hello veronique, this is your over-the-road-neighbour……….

    May I comment re hearing the first turbine in the dead of night as you would know that sound carries more accurately at night. There was no other explanation than this new turbine near our homes, as it may well be that the blades were turning more rapidly hence the sound travelling is more prominent.

    Have a nice day!!!!!!

    • Veronique says:

      Well – all I can say is that the family that lives about 150 metres away from the first turbine that serves the farm south of the road has never heard anything. If walking the dog, one of the occupants said that sometimes she could hear the ‘lightest of hums’ that came from the generator not the blades.

      I am at a loss to what you heard. The turbine blades at their fastest can only rotate at 25 – 30 revolutions a minute. The speed is determined by the length of the blades and whether or not the turbine has been feathered.

      The required and legislated decibel rating is at 32 dBA which is not much. About the same as a vacuum cleaner heard from next door.

      Quiet rural area: 30: One-sixteenth as loud as 70 dB. Very Quiet. Lifted from here:

      Here is another article from December 2013:

      I am not sure what you heard but it could not have been the turbine which is about 1.5 miles south of us.

      So there has to be other noise that is infiltrating our neighbourhood. The B921 is pretty noisy at times, however I don’t think that is what you are hearing. It is something else.

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