Concern as wind turbines fail to produce power

New figures showing barely active wind turbines have prompted fears of a rural landscape left scarred by inefficient wind farms

A wind farm with many wind turbines
A wind farm with many wind turbines

Campaigners have called for a new era of openness as it emerges some ageing turbines are producing nowhere near the power originally promised.

Opponents to wind farms say there is a growing risk of turbines not meeting energy demands or having reached the end of their useful life being left as a blot on the landscape until planning permission expires.

The call comes as RWE npower renewables becomes the first in the UK to produce data streaming of its turbines. The firm’s website gives live information for each wind farm and the energy it is producing, a move welcomed by campaigners.

A look at Durham’s Tow Law wind farm shows that the site rarely reaches 25% of its capacity. The Journal checked on two different days, with wind varying from 4mph to 14mph. On Tuesday five checks failed to show the wind farm producing any energy. Five checks on Friday showed the farm peaking at 577kw - around 25% of what it could be providing.

RWE said that August is generally a low wind month and also one of the lower months for consumption.

Under the Government’s lucrative subsidy system the site received nearly £4,000 under the Government’s payment system last year.

Wind campaigners say it is vital all the information surrounding sites is available, especially to see if some locations are producing energy or bringing in cash.

Don Brownlow, a member of the former Moorsyde Action Group which opposed turbines near Berwick, said that in his experience campaigning against turbines energy companies would need to have “horrifyingly inefficient” turbines before they considered replacing them, and that if they did seek to regain planning permission it is typically for larger turbines, as was the case at Blyth Harbour.

“To be fair to RWE they are doing something which others should certainly be doing. Its rare you see individual site’s contribution, the firms normally hide commercial sensitivities. We do know from annual regional data that the North East has second the lowest load factor of any region, that’s the second lowest turbine productivity.

“I remember finding out about the turbines at Blyth harbour, they hadn’t been moving, I called someone up and he said ‘oh, didn’t you know, there’s a problem with the cable, they haven’t worked for two years.’”

He added: “The Tow Law turbines are getting on a bit now, so that might in part explain the low readings on this site. A lot of the energy companies are very reluctant to take down a turbine, as once they are gone you need planning permission to put one up. You hear of some being repowered but this is not a very common event, so at some point they just get older and do very little.”

Industry spokesman Maf Smith, RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, said: “Of course some days are windier than others, but overall the UK has the best wind resource in Europe, so it makes sense to use it as part of our energy mix. You need to look at the year as a whole - the latest Government figures show that in 2012, more than 11% of the UK’s electricity came from renewable sources, with wind providing the lion’s share.

“While our critics may choose to pick out individual examples of periods when it was less windy, we prefer to look at the bigger picture.”

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