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Cheers - AE

Friday, 11 February 2011

Reading's most expensive joke?

What's nearly 400 foot tall, cost £130,000 in subsidies last year and was only worth a hundred grand? Reading's wind turbine, badoom tish!

What? I never said it was a funny a joke, did I?
The 280ft turbine situated in a business park near the M4 in Reading operated at just 15 per cent of its capacity year, meaning it generated £100,000 of energy, despite attracting subsidies of £130,000 from the Government.
What a great investment. Oh, not in terms of energy generation obviously. And since wind turbines need backup for when it's not windy or, amusingly, when it's too windy, which is typically a conventional power station running on spinning reserve and, if fossil fuelled, spunking terrible carbon death into the air, it's not a great investment in terms of saving our fragile planet either. That's before you even think about the effects turbines may be having elsewhere. Even if you believe in man made warble gloaming a wind turbine to a greenie should be seen, in their parlance, as environmentally unsound. But it is a good business investment to stick up something that will pay you more just for it being there than you get from selling the electricity. Who gives a rip that it only operates at a fraction of it's capacity when what it does generate pays you a 100 grand and then the government holds the taxpayer's head against a wall for a bit until you get another £130K (plus a little for the government's time, natch). Seriously, that's like striking oil.

Well, except you can use oil to make electricity when the wind doesn't blow.
Since 2005, when it began producing energy, the turbine has been subsidised with £600,000 of public money but has run at an average of 17 per cent of its capacity.
The turbine in Reading is capable of generating two megawatts (two million watts) of electricity at any time, but last year worked at 15.4 per cent of this rate, producing 2,692 megawatt-hours (MWh) – the total amount of energy measured in hours – over the year.
Government subsidies of £48 are paid to wind turbine owners for every MWh generated, with the Reading turbine's owner Ecotricity earning £130,000.
Hang on a mo, they get £48 per MWh no matter what? So if they get £130K for for making £100K worth of electricity and presumably also got paid for the £100,000 worth of electricity it generated, doesn't that mean that over the time period they got a total of £600,000 in subsidies they also made over £450,000 from just ordinary turnover? Doesn't it mean that unless the value of the electricity they produce rises above the value of the subsidy they get the wind turbine always gets more subsidies than it makes from generation? And since consumers pay twice, once as customers and once as taxpayers coughing up for the subsidy, doesn't it mean that the wind power is more than twice as much per unit? And that ignores the associated costs of backup for the 83% of its capacity that it couldn't supply.

In fact, is it fair to say that the core business of wind turbine operation is not power generation but attracting subsidies, and on those numbers would anyone be doing it if the subsidy wasn't there?

PS - and if they were so fucking wonderful to have around would it be necessary to do this?
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