Wind speeds not a factor

Russell Pope claims that Northumberland attracts wind turbine speculators because of its superior wind resource (More wind, more turbines, August 28). This is nonsense.

The main factors for developers are site availability, easy access and grid connection, and a compliant planning authority. Wind speed comes a long way down the list.

If Mr Pope doubts this, he might note that Northamptonshire is also a wind rush hotspot – it has some of the lowest wind speeds in the UK.

The area ‘south and west of Berwick’ was labelled as an ‘area of search’ for wind development more than 10 years ago, mainly on the basis of a grid connection study by PB Power.

It has seen four applications for large turbine arrays: Barmoor, Moorsyde (Felkington), Toft Hill and West Ancroft. There have been numbers of applications for smaller turbines.

Like much of lowland Northumberland, it has a poor wind resource. The Moorsyde developers, Your Energy Ltd, admitted as much in the Berwick Advertiser: ‘The fact that Felkington is on a low lying plateau means the wind conditions are relatively low.’

In the same article they explained their priorities: ‘The main considerations for us are the access and this site is relatively easy to get to … it is also reasonably close to Berwick which means the connection into the transmission system is relatively straightforward.’

Very large, consumer-funded wind subsidies have encouraged development on easy, low-wind sites. The Moorsyde developers boasted of this: “Historically, windfarm developers have chased the windiest sites to optimise returns... Your Energy believes that the Renewables Obligation together with technological advances allow a new approach” (Moorsyde brochure).

While claiming that ‘we need some facts’, Mr Pope fails to provide the figures to support his argument.

The wind industry has claimed for very many years that ‘a modern wind turbine will typically generate about 30 per cent of its theoretical maximum output’. This is known as its load factor (LF).

The Moorsyde turbines would, according to the developers, have produced, at best, 22.4 per cent of their headline capacity.

The Middlemoor turbines have a 27 per cent LF, according RWE Innogy. Green Rigg, on a high moorland site, has a recorded average of only 27.6 per cent. Less than DECC’s recorded UK average for 2013.

Mr Pope also neglects to mention DECC’s Energy Trends figures.

The North East had the worst regional average LF of just 21 per cent for 1998 to 2004. By 2009, the figure had improved to 21.9 per cent and we were second from bottom; but only because a few turbines had been built in the South East, which has even worse wind figures.

The Papal bull on tourism is equally misleading.

There are now numbers of independent surveys (eg Visit Scotland, 2011) which show that a significant percentage of visitors would avoid staying in an area with large numbers of turbines.

Nobody claims that the County’s total visitor numbers will plummet.

We have had direct experience of losing a large amount of tourism investment during 10 years of turbine planning blight in our area. I am sure the same has happened in other areas of Northumberland which have suffered the attentions of wind speculators. This is not recorded in any wind industry/government surveys.

Don Brownlow,