Is the Myth that Wind Power is Cheap Being Exposed?

In the UK there were no takers for Offshore Wind Power at £44/MWh.

The suppliers are suggesting a 70% increase in the strike price is required.

In the USA Wind Power Contracts are being cancelled/abandoned unless the price is very significantly increased.

All the Wind Turbine manufacturers are in trouble.

The workable strike price for new Offshore Wind is now similar to that for new Nuclear, noting that Nuclear does not require additional subsides to deal with intermittency. 

As the quantities of basic raw materials, concrete, steel, etc. for 3GW of nuclear appear to be less than required for 3GW of wind with a 30% capacity factor nuclear seems the sensible option. New design nuclear has a design life of 60-80 years rather than 20 – 30 years for wind (but no one really knows).

Why are we still wasting money on wind power?

  • Interesting debate Roger

    Most renewable energies are better for the environment than burning fossil fuels. (Primarily smoke and pollution emissions) I would also include nuclear fuels power in this group to a certain exstent.  There are however a lot of caveats.

    Nuclear power stations are normally run at 100% and can not be increased or decreased as quick as needed to keep the National Grid stable at 240v @ 50 Hz or there about.  Although as we were once part of the EU should we not be putting out 230V nominal?  

    Fossil fuels give the NG the flexibility to ramp up or down production of power as is required.  To certain extend so does Solar PV and Wind, again with caveat Sun and Wind are needed to be present at that time.  Tidal power is more constant but also has fluctuations.

    There are several things that I see surround Nuclear Power.
    The Life cycle.  How many years after it shutdown does the facility still need to run to be made safe?
    The inherent dangers should something go wrong internally or by external influences.  Eg Fukushima 2011, Chernobyl 1986
    The Germans seem to be closing down some of their nuclear reactors recently for the above reasons.

    I think long term we need to make more power and learn to store it better and also make all our electricity consumption more efficient. As an example we have a lot of wind turbines in the North around Scotland but they are just wind power.  They could have a collar put around them that could harness the tidal power and feed it down the existing power lines to shore.  On shore they need to build more large capacity battery storage for when there is a large amount of wind but a lack of customer usage.  There will also be days that there is not enough wind and on those days the Nation Grid power will need to come from other sources. 

    It is also worth mentioning that if we as a nation completly move away from oil to produce power we will still drill for oil.  A lot of people are not aware how many everyday items are made from PetroChemicals.

  • Take care with the comparisons.

    Nuclear has not been below £50 per megawatt-hour since well before 2010, Sizewell C is predicated on a strike price of  £89.50 at 2013 prices and Hinkley C if and when it finished is inflation linked to something like £92.5 at 2012 prices, whatever that would be today, probably well over £120.

     also note that the production cost of gas fired power stations  is bouncing a  lot but in winter is a few hundred quid per MWH, but with occasional eyewatering peaks

    Or looking further back..

    And there is one certainty, fossil fuels will eventually run out, as we are using them many orders of magnitude faster than they were initially created.

    So maybe the strike price  bar for wind generation should be raised a little too to nearer the typical price rather than just a fraction of it ?

    Also it is quite fun to see which countries are clearly in gas production decline, and which are still discovering more reserves . Right now the planet as a whole is more or less on a bumpy plateau with about 50 years of gas left at current burn rate - which will not happen, the price will rise until demand destruction occurs once output starts to seriously decline so probably the last gas to come out will be very valuable and be eked out to be used very slowly.

    Within the lifetime of current and new wind turbines (20-30 years depends who you believe), I expect the global gas picture to change quite dramatically.


  • And more Slight frown

    Ørsted cancels two US offshore windfarm projects at £3.3bn cost | Wind power | The Guardian

  • The government has raised the CFD for offshore wind significantly:

    Price paid for offshore power to rise by 66% - BBC News

    However at the end of the day the consumer/taxpayer foots the bill.

  • he consumer / taxpayer foots teh bill for environmental destruction too whilst the fossil fuel companies rake in their profits

  • well yes consumers will pay - after all, they want to use the else does 

    But note, even after the increase to about 7p per kWhr, it is still  a lot lower than the equivalent guaranteed prices already  agreed for Nuclear some years ago. Yes, wind is cheaper than nuclear,  but its far from free. In that sense the increase looks large partly because it is overdue.

    I do not think that there will be very many occasions the govt has to pay out to make up this strike price.


  • Meanwhile, the government is still obstructing onshore wind, even though it's cheaper than offshore.  Despite the latest planning changes, it's still more difficult to get planning for onshore wind than pretty much anything else you might want to build.

  • There seem to be some unrealistic views that wind power has no environmental impact and that it delivers a useful product.

    The manufacture and installation of wind turbines, especially offshore, consumes a large amount of resources and energy.  Exactly how much is difficult to determine, the wind industry is not very transparent, but they are working with a low density energy source. Various energy paybacks have been quoted generally a year or two but usually without detail. The recent financial difficulties that the turbine producers are in suggests that they have been underestimating their resource requirements to meet the political target of ever falling cost of wind power. Those projects that bid under £40 per MWh had no chance of success as we are seeing now.

    What are the real requirements? The main components of a wind turbine are concrete and steel, both energy intensive and polluting. The composite blades use large amounts of oil based products, what do you do when you ‘Just Stop Oil’?

    What do you do when a wind turbine reaches the end of it’s working life? What is it’s working life, 20 years? The head and blade assembly can be replaced, keeping the tower if it is still ok, but the offshore environment is very harsh. How often can they be repowered, once or twice?

    What is the actual impact of wind turbines on the environment? They remove energy from the air flow, they disturb the stratification of the air, especially the latest giants. What does this do? Some studies suggest the a wind farm can ‘steal’ the energy from another farm 50km away. Other studies appear to show lower rainfall downstream of wind farms possibly due to the air mixing/disturbed stratification. Bird kill is often mentioned, I am not sure about the effects on marine life, whales etc. There is a logic in the effect of low frequency  sound on them but no real statistics or causation.

    What do wind farms deliver? They deliver intermittent energy when they want to and are only economic if we are forced to buy it. With the current fairly small penetration the supply grids can cope with this even though it reduces the efficiencies of the generation sources that have to supply the back up. This is not put into the wind farms environmental budget, nor are storage systems like batteries. Hydrogen then brings another set of questions.

    An onshore wind farm in Sweden, Markbygden Ett, tried to deliver base load electricity to Hydro with a contract where Markbygden had to make up any shortfall in supply with electricity purchased on the open market. The result is Markbygden  has filed for bankruptcy protection due to an inability to supply enough consistent wind power.

    I agree that burning fossil fuels for energy is a waste of valuable resources, but in the longer term wind may not be much better. Nuclear, especially the newer generation plants with load following capabilities which have been designed for easy decommissioning are a much better option. Used nuclear fuel is a problem, but a very compact problem. Fuel recycling and newer reactor designs that can burn more of it will further reduce the problems. 80 year plus service lives also sound good.

  • Interesting to see an article in E+T saying that the £44 per MWh is not realistic and should be doubled:

    Renaud Saleur, head of Swiss firm Anaconda Invest, told the Financial Times that deals for offshore wind would likely be loss-making “until governments realise they need to give $80 to $100 per MWh and not $30 to $40”.

    Size matters in wind farm development | Engineering and Technology Magazine (

    It also goes into the problems of interaction/screening between individual turbines and windfarms:

    " If the wind blows along a chain of eight turbines, airspeed at the front can easily drop from 9m/s to 7m/s by the time it reaches the mast at the back". 

    As the power is proportional to the square of the wind speed that is quite significant.

  • Even if you double it, that's still only 8.8p per kWh.

    There does seem to be a desire to build bigger and bigger turbines, which means the manufacturers never end up mass producing them and never achieve the economies of scale that people were expecting.  Is it just one-upmanship as you can say "my wind farm is bigger than yours"?

    I hope that anyone with any sense lays out a wind farm so that the turbines aren't in straight lines when viewed from the direction of the prevailing winds.