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United Kingdom

A few simple answers

I would like to set the record straight with a few simple answers to the "Few Simple Questions" asked by Robert Woodward of Country Guardian (Windpower Monthly, April 1994). Readers who may not be familiar with Mr Woodward's organisation should be aware that Country Guardian's leadership includes representatives of the nuclear power industry -- a generating resource that can hardly lay claim to environmental or economic benefits.

In insinuating that "people like Mike Harper" are "woolly and starry-eyed," Mr Woodward is, in fact, attempting to pull the wool over our eyes. His assumption that the UK will have a 39% surplus in generating capacity by the year 2000 (unlikely) fails to recognise the value of bringing on line new cost efficient and pollution free generating resources. Wind power will accelerate the decommissioning of older inefficient and highly toxic fossil fuel generating stations. This fact should not be interpreted as a call to replace all UK's coal plants with renewable resources. Rather, it underscores the environmental and associated economic benefits of a diverse generating resource base.

Mr Woodward's assertion that 1690 sq km of wind plant are needed to match the output of a 350 MW gas station is wrong. The figure is about 169 sq km. His suggestion that wind energy facilities could occupy over 6000 sq km in Britain is simply ludicrous. Less than 2% of a wind plant site is actually occupied, including access roads and power substations. Other land uses, such as agriculture, recreation and mining can continue. Can the same be said for a gas-fired power plant and the land required for well-head pumping and pipelines; or for a nuclear plant and its fuel storage areas?

Although Mr Woodward would have us believe otherwise, a wind plant, unlike other generating resources, can actually lead to the preservation of vast open spans of the countryside. You won't find many hikers eager to tramp through a nuclear waste depository, a strip mine, or a hillside that has been denuded by acid rain. As to the question of emissions. Basic logic applies. For every kilowatt generated by wind energy, air pollution is avoided.

Nobody is suggesting that wind alone is enough. Energy conservation, through demand side management, is a critical component of Britain's overall energy policy and should be pursued to its maximum. Finally, yes, Mr Woodward, it is true that localised public surveys indicate broad support for wind energy.

Clarence Grebey, Kenetech Ltd. Chester, England

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