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United Kingdom

Government adviser promotes wind -- A cheap solution for Britain

Wind power on land will be the cheapest form of generation in Britain by 2020 when the government's aim is to have 20% of total electricity from renewables. With 20% wind, the additional power system cost to consumers will only be £0.17/kWh, says the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), which advises government on its climate change policy.

The variability of wind is not a problem, says the report, since it can be forecast accurately over the time-frames that system operators need to balance the network. Increasing the proportion of wind on the system does not need greater "back up" capacity as is often claimed, but it does slightly increase the cost.

SDC's conclusions are contained in its new report, Wind Power in the UK, intended to help policy makers and authorities responsible for site permitting assess the benefits of wind against the wealth of misinformation surrounding the technology. To give it extra credibility, the report has been peer-reviewed.

Visual impact

Wind power must be made to work in Britain to tackle climate change and the visual impact of wind turbines must be considered in the context of the impact of climate change on the landscape, says the report. "To some, wind turbines are a blot on the landscape whereas to others they are elegant workhorses, but this reaction is highly subjective. However, there are far fewer landscape and environmental impacts associated with wind turbines than with other generation technologies," it says. Siting policies for renewables need to continue to improve. "The UK has some of the strictest policies in place to protect against interference of radar and aviation and these must be justified."

Climate change will have a devastating impact unless urgent action is taken to boost renewables and energy efficiency, says SDC chairman Jonathan Porritt. "Good decision making is needed, and this requires reliable, up to date information, based on the best available scientific evidence. We believe wind power is a critically important part of the overall energy mix, and hope that this authoritative guide will ensure wind power is harnessed in the most responsible way to ensure that emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced."

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) says the report, underlining the importance of wind in meeting the UK's climate change goal, comes at a critical time. "The report confirms that significant amounts of wind capacity can be integrated onto our electricity network without the need for dedicated back-up and without compromising the nation's security of supply," says the BWEA's Marcus Rand.

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