COVER STORY: by Brian HandleyNews Weekly
Wind turbines : coming to a farm near you
, September 20, 2003
Articles in the local Gippsland press highlighting the legitimate and genuine concerns of property owners about the proposal to build 100 metre high wind turbines in the area are just the start of many more such stories if the Bracks Victorian Labor Government continues with its folly of using taxpayers money to fund wind farms.
With government policy now targeting 10 per cent new renewable energy generation by 2010, Victoria is likely to see wind farms popping up like mushrooms all over the state. However, unlike mushrooms, these towers are larger than the MCG light towers and will be a permanent blight on our beautiful landscapes.
Moreover, we, the taxpayers, are being asked to subsidise the company installing them (Pacific Hydro) to make these farms viable. Given this reality, it is not unreasonable for Victorians to be given the facts as distinct from the myths concerning these wind farms. What do we already know about them?
Well, by Pacific Hydro's own reports (Hamilton Spectator,
May 27, 2003), their wind turbines at Codrington are operating at 32 per cent capacity on an annualised basis. When winds are strong, they operate at 100 per cent and other times zero, due to no wind. A South Australian Government report states that only eight per cent of wind power capacity can be regarded as reasonably reliable and requires ninety per cent back-up by other sources at all times.
When we examine the capital cost of projects, we find the proposed Portland project will cost $270 million for a capacity of 180 MW along with Ararat, $77 million for 52.5 MW. This is a total of 232.5 MW for $347 million, or $1.49 million per MW when operating at 100 per cent capacity. But the available MW becomes just 74.4 MW on Pacific Hydro's figure of 32 per cent, and a mere 18.6 MW on the SA Government's 8 per cent figure.
Pacific Hydro and its shareholders could not hope to generate a satisfactory return on their investment without taxpayer subsidies, plus the higher price for power being conned out of gullible retail consumers prepared to pay a premium price for supposedly greener energy.
Apart from the unreliability of wind power, the turbines have intrinsic limitations. The weight of the turbines at the top of the tower, blade strength and tip speed impose output limits, so power is generated in penny packets. There are frequency control issues still not resolved, and there is no way to store the power.
The distribution company must take the power as it comes, regardless of demand or availability of other cheaper supplies. These limitations will always translate into cost inefficiency. No distributor is likely to want wind power unless forced to do so by the Bracks Government.
Claims that wind turbines at Portland could power Alcoa's Portland Smelter are fanciful. At 32 per cent capacity they would need thousands of turbines and even this number would not deliver power reliable enough to supply a smelter which could be ruined by interruption to supply.
The fact is, wind power is useless for base load power and cannot be relied on for peak or supplementary power. Apart from these intrinsic problems, the turbines are an aesthetic nightmare. They are noisy and will lower land prices in areas where they are built.
Tragically, they will also divide country communities, because many farmers will naturally be tempted to grab the fistful of dollars when Pacific Hydro come knocking, notwithstanding the negative impact on their neighbour's land and the wider community.Contempt
It is hard to condemn farmers who are offered $300,000 plus for the right to build turbines on their farms, but what about their neighbours who get nothing, but effectively still have these towers in their backyard? This is just another example of how governments treat country people with contempt.
Under Jeff Kennett we lost our local councils, hospitals, water boards, schools, not to mention the SECV. Now we have the Bracks Government trying to impose a colossal confidence trick on country people to appease the noisy green lobby.
The justification for all this is, of course, the spurious claim that we have a global warming problem and in this context, building more coal stations will add more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Regrettably, too many timid and compliant politicians embrace these claims as though they were fact.
In truth, the whole issue of global warming is still open to serious challenge by experts within the scientific community.
For example, Patrick Michaels, a leading climatologist and Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia, says the debate over global warming is more about politics than science. He has provided comprehensive data to support his scepticism.
Just because Greenpeace, Peter Garrett, and Bob Brown say we have global warming, does not make it so. The political left doomsayers were also predicting a looming mini Ice Age in the early 1970s.
It should also be remembered that even if there is a case to support the global warming theory, it does not in itself support the view that coal power stations and the like are the underlying cause.
The fact is, climatic changes have been recorded as far back as 982 AD, when Erik the Red, the Viking, founded and settled Greenland.
This occurred during an era known as the Medieval Warm Period, which began around 900 and peaked from 1000 to 1300. European culture prospered in a climate so balmy, that English farmers could grow wine grapes 500 km north of modern limits. Trade flourished, the great cathedrals were built and the European population exploded.
This period of history is often presented as proof that global warming is nothing to fear. (The
Age, May 5, 2003, "Global Warming: Is it a load of hot air?")
Despite these historic facts, the Bracks Government seems determined to impose hundreds, if not thousands of wind turbines on country Victoria and for what benefit?
As Bracks' own Energy Minister Theo Theophanous stated in the Herald Sun
(August 25, 2003),
"Unless we built a new coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, we will experience New York style blackouts."
So while Environment Minister John Thwaites, the Greens Bob Brown and South Gippsland farmer Lindsay Marriott might believe the looming energy crisis can be saved by windmills, the facts suggest otherwise.
The Bracks Government would do well to heed the message from the protestors at Parliament House on August 31, or the bush will turn on Bracks as it did Jeff Kennett.
Let's bring some sanity and objectivity into this debate and not base important public policy decisions on a global warming theory, that may well prove to be a complete myth.
Meanwhile, a new coal power station in the Latrobe Valley would create up to 500 construction jobs and also attract industry to Victoria by offering cheap power.
Such a power station would also eliminate the need to have wind farms at all, which if built on the scale proposed, will stand as a monument to the folly of our modern political leaders
- Brian Handley, President, Moe Branch, National Party