It’s Wind Week!

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On Monday Energy secretary Chris Huhne visited Leicester Square in London to see a fully functioning 13.5 metre (43 ft) wind turbine, which was installed by SIAC Wind Power for one day, from 10am to 4pm.  The unit was fully functional and formed a centre piece as part of the Wind Week celebrations.  

The turbine in the square

Speaking during his visit to the turbine, Mr Huhne said:  

“Wind energy is at the heart of our plans for renewable energy. This week will see thousands of people visiting their local wind farms and events around the country raising awareness of the opportunities there are for energy security, jobs and business from the industry.”  

Wind Week 2010, is a UK-wide celebration of wind energy organised by RenewableUK in partnership with the Scottish Renewables Festival, The events started on Saturday 12th June and will run until 20th June . Various wind farm sites around the UK will open their doors to the general public this week to ‘get the message’ out about wind energy.  

The events are being held in an attempt to develop a majority in favour of wind farms and ensure that ‘ WIMBYs’,( those that support wind in their back yard), become more vocal at the local level. Currently, only 25% of applications for wind farms are approved at the local level, and are often rejected by council planning bodies. The aim is to try to dispel some of the myths around wind energy, by letting people get up close with wind turbines and wind farm sites.  

This in a week that has seen the Daily Mail publish a letter by Michael Cole attacking wind power, following Miriam Durantez, the wife of the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, taking up a job in the renewables industry. Unfortunately for Mr Cole, it appears his research is somewhat flawed.  

One of his many inaccurate statements included the claim wind turbines can’t run without power from the National Grid and need their own generator for a constant electricity supply. The truth is, wind turbines use an induction generator, which could be considered a form of reversed electrical motor. When the wind turbines’ blades are turning faster than the speed of the equivalent electrical motor, the generator produces power. When wind speed is low, a turbine might need a jump-start, which some take directly from the grid.  

Mr Cole also stated billions of pounds have been spent in Britain on more than 2,000 turbines – and yet they contribute barely one per cent of the electricity the country needs. This is simply wrong. Owing to wind’s variability, wind turbines typically produce about 3 per cent of the country’s electricity – and this figure is set to increase as more wind farms are approved and built.  

Lastly, Mr Cole blames wind farms for killing bats and birds that accidentally fly into them (a common claim). Bird enthusiast and television presenter Bill Oddie has commented on this topic. He fully supports wind farms, and states the danger they pose to birds is minimised due to the considered approach to construction taken by wind farm developers. In fact, cats pose a much more significant threat to birds than wind turbines!  

Wind farms are coming, this is a good opportunity for the technology to be publicised – but so far I have not seen ‘wind week’ mentioned on the TV news. I wonder why?

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