1. How much grant money or public subsidies have the project or the developers received now and in the future?
No grant money or public subsidy has been paid to the project company or the developers to date and not one penny is expected to be received. All development expenditure has been paid through the funds of our shareholders.
The Renewables Obligation (RO), described above, does provide a mechanism to support investment in wind farms and the Newfield Wind Farm will be eligible to receive Renewable Obligation Certificates for each mega-watt-hour (MWh) of electricity it generates. The RO is run by the industry and its regulator rather than via the public purse.
2. How large are turbines?
Modern turbines are awe-inspiringly tall, elegant machines. Hub heights are generally between 60 and 80 meters high with blade lengths (radius) onshore of up to 45 meters. Wind speed generally increases higher up which makes turbines more efficient. This is counterbalanced by the additional costs of using more and stronger components to build larger structures. As steel prices have risen in recent times, the wind on the site will often determine if it is worth building taller or shorter wind turbines.
The current visual representations in our Interactive Map utilise an 80m tower and a 90 diameter rotor giving a maximum blade tip height of 125m.
3. How long will the turbines work?
The design life of a wind turbine is generally between 20 and 25 years. During operations components will be replaced in a similar way to running a car. At the end of their lives, the towers and many of the components are recyclable. Once the equipment is removed the foundations are usually buried and graded over with top soil which is designed to minimize earth disturbance.
4. Is wind power economical?
The Sustainable Development Commission has estimated the generation costs of onshore wind power to be around 3.2p/kWh, with offshore at around 5.5p/kWh. This compares well with wholesale prices for electricity although recently wholesale prices have risen significantly because oil and gas prices have risen. The costs of wind power have fallen significantly over the last twenty years while the cost of finite fuels like gas and oil have risen. Recent increases in commodities prices and tightness in the markets for the supply of equipment have resulted in some increases in capital costs, however this has no direct effect on the power prices paid for wind energy.
The costs of nuclear generation are very difficult to assess as the construction has often been prone to time and cost overruns and the costs of decommissioning nuclear plant are colossal and represent a huge indirect subsidy as the risks are effectively underwritten by tax payers. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority estimated that the UK’s clean up costs for nuclear power stations could exceed £70 billion. That money would pay for enough new wind turbines to supply all the electricity in the UK for the next 20 years.
When the external costs of power consumption (such as pollution and toxic waste problems) are taken in to consideration, the benefits of wind power are even more marked. Rather than increasing electricity prices, wind farms can now help reduce them. And no one is ever going to turn off the supply of wind.
5. How much noise do wind turbines make?
You can stand directly beneath the blades of a modern wind turbine and still hold a conversation without raising your voice. Rigorous independent noise standards are adhered to when designing a wind farm and turbines are not located where it could cause unacceptable noise nuisance to local residents. In addition, wind farms are subject to strict planning restrictions that require noise level monitoring to ensure that they do not exceed required levels.
6. How much energy is used manufacturing wind turbines?
Each operational wind farm typically pays back the electricity consumed in making, installing, operating and decommissioning the wind farm in the first 3-10 months of its 20 year life.
7. I read that wind turbines only work 25% of the time. Is this true?
This is not true. A wind turbine produces power for about 75-80% of the time. The amount of power it produces depends on the wind resource available at the time. “Capacity Factors” are often talked about – these are calculated as the total amount of power generated in a year, divided by the total possible amount of power if the wind blew all the time at optimum speeds. In calm countries like Germany, these capacity factors (expressed as a percentage) are often in the 20’s. In windy Scotland, high 30’s and even 40’s are more prevalent.
At wind speeds below 4 m/s the turbines will not produce any power. From a gentle breeze the turbine will operate and with a strong breeze it will reach its rated capacity. From there up to a strong gale the turbine will operate at full power. Beyond a strong gale, the turbine will stop operating to prevent mechanical damage.
8. What happens if the wind stops blowing?
Managing supply of electricity is a delicate balancing exercise matching generation to demand. The good news is that the system is designed to tolerate even major shocks such as a large power stations going off-line without warning. Demand can also be volatile such as the peaks in demand during advertising breaks in very popular TV programmes as the nation goes to switch on their kettles.
Wind is difficult to predict far in advance but is highly predictable within the thirty minute dispatch periods that the wholesale electricity market operates in the UK.
Certain power plants exist only to supply power during peak demand periods and operate for only a limited part of the day. Others, such as nuclear stations, operate mainly as base-load plants and often operate 24 hours a day. There is plenty of back up power supply to cover periods of very low wind and other circumstances like safety outages in nuclear reactor cores.
Denmark generates almost 20% of its electricity with wind farms and does not suffer from outages as a result. Research has shown that it is highly improbable that the wind will not blow across all of Scotland at the same time. And further good news is that the wind resource during the winter is highest at the same time that demand for energy for heating is very high too.
9. Will wind farms affect global warming?
Tackling global warming is a global issue but one that everyone can make a contribution to. Wind power is a step in the right direction and in conjunction with increased energy efficiency, more efficient forms of transport and reduced emissions from fossil fuel generation, can significantly reduce our carbon emissions.
11. Do wind turbines disturb livestock?
Farming the wind is increasingly popular among farmers as a way of boosting income without sacrificing their traditional farming activities growing crops or grazing animals. Wind turbines do not disturb sheep, cows or horses.
12. Will TV reception be affected?
Some interference with analogue TV signals is possible. The potential impacts of the Earlshaugh wind farm on television reception has been investigated through the environmental impact assessment and it has been confirmed that there will be no adverse effects in this respect.
13. How much energy do wind turbines generate?
A 3MW turbine installed in a windy location will generate enough electricity to meet the needs of over 1,600 homes. Whilst the point of use of electricity generated by most wind farms cannot be determined, we expect that the Earlshaugh Wind Farm will generate power equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of over 53,000 homes in Scottish Borders. Our estimate is based on capacity factors published in the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics (2007).
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14. What is the Renewables Obligation?
Legislation has been introduced to incentivise the energy industry to invest in renewable energy generation. The Renewables Obligation (RO) was introduced by the government requiring electricity supply companies to source a minimum fraction of their electricity from renewable energy sources or pay a penalty. Renewable Energy Certificates (or ROCs) are issued to renewable generators for each Mega-Watt hour (MWh) of electicity generated.
The generator usually sells the ROC with the electricity to a supply company. Any penalties paid by supply companies who do not evidence meeting their target via the banking of ROCs with the regulator OFGEM (www.ofgem.gov.uk), are recycled to renewable energy generators which acts as an incentive for developers to propose renewable energy schemes.
The UK RO target for 2010 is for 10% of all electricity generated to come from renewable sources. For 2015, the target is 15%.