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Some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes are blighted by wind farms that will not generate enough electricity for the future. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has released figures which show a six per cent drop in the amount of electricity produced by Britain’s onshore wind farms.


The department blames a drop in wind, revealing that 2010 was the calmest year this century, with onshore wind producing only 1.9 per cent of all electricity in 2010, compared with two per cent the year before.


Blight: Wind farms like this one in West Yorkshire are not producing enough electricity

Blight: Wind farms like this one in West Yorkshire are not producing enough electricity, research shows

 

Meteorologists believe that changes to the Atlantic jet stream could alter the pattern of winds over the next four decades, leaving much of Britain’s ever-increasing wind farms becalmed.


The Atlantic jet stream brings warm, wet weather to the UK and Europe from the south-west. If it is ‘blocked’ as a result of changes in solar activity, cold air flows across Britain from the east.

Dr David Brayshaw, a meteorologist from Reading University says if wind speed lowers, it is obvious that less electricity will be generated by turbines.


The prediction from meteorologists leaves many wondering why so much money is being thrown at wind farms in the UK, and whether vast swathes of the countryside should be set aside for more turbines.


The amount of electricity generated from renewable sources in 2010 increased by 2.2 per cent from 2009

The amount of electricity generated from renewable sources in 2010 increased by 2.2 per cent from 2009

 

But a DECC spokesman said the wind speeds of 2010 had been ‘unusually low’.


The annual average load factor for onshore wind in the UK is 27 per cent, meaning wind farms are effectively 27 per cent efficient at generating electricity. 


‘This compares favourably to countries such as Germany, where the load factor is around 20 per cent,’ said the spokesman. 


‘Even against a backdrop of the lowest average wind speeds this century in 2010 and the lowest rainfall since 2003, overall consumption of renewable energy in 2010 has risen significantly on the previous year. 


‘Offshore wind generation for example, increased by 75 per cent in 2010 on 2009 levels. And generation from on and off-shore wind farms combined was up 37 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 on the same period last year.’


EU targets dictate that 15 per cent of all energy, including transport and heat, is produced from renewable sources by 2020.


DECC called the EU target ‘challenging’ and said a soon-to-be-published report will show how the body will focus on overcoming barriers to utilising wind power and other technologies to deliver the 2020 targets.


Calm weather has led to a six per cent drop in the amount of electricity produced by Britain's onshore wind farms

Calm weather has led to a six per cent drop in the amount of electricity produced by Britain’s onshore wind farms

 

But a damning report from conservation charity the John Muir Trust found the UK’s wind farms were working at just 21 per cent of capacity last year.


Stuart Young, the author of the report, said: ‘Wind power is not what it’s cracked up to be. Over the two-year period studied, the wind farms in the UK consistently generated far less energy than wind proponents claim is typical.’ 


The failure of Britain’s wind farms to produce enough electricity could cost billions in extra turbines and could create an economic crisis, industry experts say. 


Developers of wind power have been accused of grossly exaggerating the amount of energy turbines will generate in order to get their hands on government subsidies.


Director of the Renewable Energy Foundation Dr John Constable said even though wind farms had subsidies of £5billion in the last nine years, wind farms were failing to generate decent levels of power.

He said his calculations said subsidies will probably rise to £6billion a year by 2020 and even more in the following 10 years.


More than 3,600 turbines are expected to pop up throughout Britain over the next 10 years under plans by the Coalition government. 


Another 10,000 turbines are planned for the next decade to meet EU climate change targets.

Daily Mai, 1 July 2011