Wind Power in the UK (PDF). - Sustainable Development Commission

sd.commission.org.uk

Wind Power in the UK (PDF). - Sustainable Development Commission

Executive SummaryWind power development arouses strongopinions. For the general public, a high level ofsupport nationally for wind power can becontrasted with opposition at the local level.This situation presents local planners,councillors, and communities with a difficult task– to assess the needs of the wider environmentagainst local concerns. Information about thecomplexities of wind power generation – itscosts, intermittency issues, effects on theelectricity network, noise, ecological andlandscape impacts among others – is thereforeessential for considered decisions to be made.The aim of this report is to outline the mainissues relating to onshore wind power andcomment on their validity from a sustainabledevelopment perspective, in line with theprinciples outlined in the UK’s new Frameworkfor Sustainable Development.TargetsThe UK has committed itself to working towardsa 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, andthe development of renewable energytechnologies such as wind is a core part ofachieving this aim. UK wind resources are morethan enough to meet current renewable energytargets – the generation of 10% of UK electricityfrom renewable sources by 2010, and anaspirational target of 20% by 2020 – and thereare no major technical barriers to meeting thesetargets.IntermittencyWind blows at variable speed, variable intensityand sometimes not at all. But this variability isnot a problem for the electricity grid. Wind isaccurately forecast over the timeframes relevantto network operators and other marketparticipants. Increasing the proportion of windpower in the electricity system does not requiregreater “back up” capacity, as is often believed,but it does slightly increase the cost. The greaterthe proportion of wind on the grid the lower its“capacity value”, and the lower the quantities ofconventional technology it displaces.Nevertheless it continues to reduce carbonemissions.CostsThe generation costs of onshore wind power arearound 3.2p/kWh (+/-0.3p/kWh), with offshoreat around 5.5p/kWh, compared to a wholesaleprice for electricity of around 3.0p/kWh. Theadditional system cost is estimated to be around0.17p/kWh, when there is 20% wind power onthe system. Generation costs are likely todecrease over time as the technology improves,but this will be balanced against increased costsfor integrating higher levels of wind generationinto the system.Environmental impactsAs a carbon free source of energy, wind powercontributes positively to the UK’s effort to reduceour carbon emissions to tackle the threat ofclimate change. The impact of climate changeon the landscape will be radical, and thereforethe visual impact of a wind development mustbe considered in this context. To some, windturbines are a blot on the landscape whereas toothers they are elegant workhorses, but thisreaction is highly subjective. However, there arefar fewer landscape and environmental impactsassociated with wind turbines than with otherenergy generation technologies, although theirdevelopment is often in areas that have not hadsuch developments in the past. Winddevelopments do not have long lastingdecommissioning issues, as they can be replacedor removed quickly if necessary.Wildlife and habitat impacts can be minimisedthrough careful project location, designmeasures, and appropriate constructiontechniques. Environmental Impact Assessmentsmust be comprehensive, and thoroughly exploreii Wind Power in the UK sustainable development commission

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