The information provided by RWE Innogy to the public should be unbiased and accurate. However, the information provided by RWE Innogy is biased, inaccurate and incomplete. On the RWE Innogy website for the Atlantic Array there is a section headed “Benefits”. There is no balancing section headed “Disbenefits” or “Harm”. Below, some of the RWE Innogy claims are examined and the real information is given.
RWE Innogy Myth 1
“Every year, Atlantic Array Wind Farm would prevent the release of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of polluting carbon dioxide gas.”
Carbon dioxide is not a polluting gas. In fact carbon dioxide is a natural and vital constituent of the atmosphere. Without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there would be no plant and animal life on Earth. Recent increases in the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration have been accompanied by “greening” of the planet, particularly in places like the Sahel.
This is attributable to the fact that carbon dioxide is a plant nutrient and causes increased plant growth with lower water consumption. If carbon dioxide were a polluting gas, commercial growers would not be permitted to inject it into their greenhouses and polytunnels. Historically, carbon dioxide concentration has been many times higher than it is today.
RWE Innogy Myth 2
“The development of Atlantic Array, and other proposed offshore wind farms, presents an exciting opportunity for the growth of a new UK industry which has the potential to create thousands of jobs.”
The Atlantic Array will be highly beneficial to foreign industry. The turbines are likely to be manufactured in Germany or Denmark.
RWE Innogy make no mention of the effect of the Atlantic Array on consumers, on UK industry and on the UK economy. The cost of producing electricity by the Atlantic Array will be about three times that produced by conventional power stations. The subsidies paid for the electricity generated via the ROC scheme come from UK consumers (see below).
Many studies have shown that increasing the cost to industry, commerce and consumers for electricity causes job losses in industry and reduces consumer spending which leads to further job losses. For example, a study by consultants Verso Economics found that for every job created in the UK in the renewable energy industry, 3.7 jobs were lost elsewhere in the economy.
RWE Innogy Myth 3
“The Atlantic Array would also contribute to the UK’s security of supply for electricity.”
The Atlantic Array will only produce electricity when the wind blows within a certain range. At low wind speeds the Atlantic Array will produce no electricity. At high wind speeds the turbines have to be stopped to prevent them being destroyed and the Atlantic Array will produce no electricity. There is no security of supply when the production of electricity is dependent on the vagaries of the weather and when and how much the wind blows.
RWE Innogy Myth 4
“Energy generation – The annual generation expected at the site would be equivalent to the approximate domestic needs of around 1.1 million average UK households. This is equivalent to over 40% of the domestic electricity consumption for the South West of England or over 90% of the domestic electricity consumption for Wales.”
The amount of electricity that Atlantic Array will generate is dependent on many unknowns such as how much the wind blows and how much of the time the turbines are broken down or undergoing maintenance.
Based on the claimed 1.1 million households and the annual consumption per household of 4.7MWh, it can be calculated that the claimed capacity factor of the Atlantic Array is 39%. Given the harsh conditions in which offshore turbines operate and the difficulties of maintenance, capacity factors are likely to decline as wind turbines age. Also, given the fact that in 2009 and 2010, the measured capacity factors for existing offshore wind farms were 30% and 29% respectively, the very high figure of 39% is another myth. Thus the figure of 1.1 million households is a myth.
What RWE Innogy doesn’t tell you 1: Energy prices
RWE Innogy provide no information about the effect of the Atlantic Array on electricity prices.
The electricity produced by the Atlantic Array will be subsidised through the Renewable Obligation scheme via Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). A description oh how the Renewable Obligation scheme works is given by the Renewable Energy Foundation. The subsidy is paid by consumers through their electricity bills. The Atlantic Array will increase the price of electricity to the claimed equivalent of 1.1 million households by about 9p per unit (9p/kWh), an annual increase in bills for the 1.1 million household of about £428; this represents an increase of about 76%.
Given that 10% of extra winter mortality is attributable to fuel poverty, RWE Innogy do not want the public to how many extra households are estimated to be forced into fuel poverty by this increase in electricity bills and how many extra deaths per winter the increase in fuel poverty will cause.
What RWE Innogy doesn’t tell you 2: Back-up
RWE Innogy provide no information about what happens when the wind doesn’t blow.
The electrical output from the Atlantic Array will be dependent on the strength of the wind. At low wind speeds the Atlantic Array will produce no electricity and at high wind speeds the Atlantic Array will produce no electricity. In between, the amount of electricity produced changes as the wind speed changes. The electricity needed by the supposed 1.1 million households will have to come from somewhere else as the wind speed changes and the electricity produced rises and falls. This is known as providing back-up to meet the electricity used by consumers. Is RWE Innogy going to build the conventional power stations to provide those equivalent 1.1 million households with their electricity when the wind changes and when it doesn’t blow? RWE Innogy doesn’t say. Not only does RWE Innogy not say who is going to build those conventional power stations for back-up, but it does not say how much it is going to cost to build those back-up power stations and how much it is going to add to household electricity bills.
The requirement for back-up has recently been confirmed by British Gas who have stated that 17 gas-fired power stations costing about £10 billion are required by 2020. A modern gas-fired power station is rated at about 750MW, thus each one would cost about £600 million. Since the Atlantic Array is rated at about 1,500MW, then the equivalent of about two gas-fired power stations, costing £1.2 billion, will be required as back-up.
Does it make sense to build the Atlantic Array to provide electricity when the wind blows and to build two conventional power stations to provide back-up and to provide electricity when the wind doesn’t blow? Why not just build the conventional power stations and provide cheap electricity all the time?