The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a press release on 3rd January detailing Scottish renewable energy production for 2014. The press release is based on data provided by WeatherEnergy, an organisation whose business I have yet to establish*. Here’s how my local Press and Journal reported the story:
Wind turbines generated enough power to supply more than 100% of Scottish households on 25 out of the 31 days of December. Throughout the year wind provided enough power for the electrical needs of 98% of Scottish households with solar power meeting two-thirds or more of household electricity or hot water needs, it added.
In fact what this should say is:
Our computer model of wind and sunshine distribution suggests that wind turbines may have provided 35% and solar photovoltaics 0.44% of Scotland’s electricity in 2014.
The rest is hype and propaganda designed to deceive and confuse and to advance the objectives of WWF, whatever those might be, with no regard for the welfare of Scotland’s people.
On 2nd January I received an anxious phone call from a lady bothered by wind turbine power stations being erected in the countryside where she lives. I agreed to write a piece on the WWF press release that she sent me by email.
The analysis here is based on the data as presented by WWF and WeatherEnergy. I haven’t a clue where it comes from and how reliable it is. In fact I don’t even know if this is real or synthetic data. The press release says this:
For wind power, live wind energy output data is aggregated from nearly 8 GW of currently running wind farms in the UK, together with data from UKWED which shows the capacity of wind energy installed in each UK region. Government data is used to provide the capacity factor of wind energy in each region. All of this data is combined by WeatherEnergy’s EnergizAIR computer model to produce a realistic estimate of how much energy has been generated by the wind turbines in each region, it then converts this into how many homes could have been provided by energy from wind power.
It seems like we are dealing with a model not reality. What else would you expect from an environmental lobby group? But let’s persevere and interrogate the numbers.
A good starting point is this data on installed renewables capacity in Scotland, Q2 2014 according to Scottish Renewables.
WWF: Looking at data for the whole of 2014 wind turbines provided an estimated 8,958,130MWh of electricity to the National Grid
Taking 5,110 MW installed wind capacity from Scottish Renewables (4920 MW onshore and 190 MW offshore), maximum possible generation from wind in 2014 would be:
5110*24*365 = 44,763,600 MWh
8,958,130 / 44,763,600 = 20.0% capacity factor for the whole of 2014, which seems about right. So far so good!
WWF: Total electricity consumption in Scotland is 25,873GWh
Wind production = 8,958 GWh / 25,873 GWh = 34.6% of all electricity consumed. Not bad? But where does the number of 98% come from? Not content with reporting an honest figure that everyone can relate to, it is spun:
WWF: Total electricity consumption in Scotland is 25,873GWh, of which 41% is domestic and 59% is non-domestic.
WWF chose instead to report data against domestic consumption and not total consumption.
25,873 GWh * 0.41 = 10,608 GWh domestic
8,958 GWh / 10,608 GWh = 84.4% of domestic electricity from wind. So I still can’t get to 98%. One of us can’t do sums.
One of the things WWF forget to say is that following their analytical approach, wind power provided no electricity at all to commerce in 2014.
I live in leafy suburb in one of the most prosperous cities in the UK. There are 30 houses all with their own roof tops. I know of one solar hot water system and no solar PV installations. At this time of year the sun rises around 09:00 and sets at 16:00, barely getting above the horizon. Where is all that solar energy coming from?
According to the Scottish Renewables chart there is 130 MW of installed solar photovoltaics (PV) in Scotland. How much electricity could this produce? In an earlier post I reckoned that solar PV may have a load factor of about 9% in cloudy Scotland, I will assume 10%.
130 MW * 24 hours * 365 days * 10% = 113,880 MWh
Total consumption = 25,873,000 MWh, hence solar PV could have provided:
113,880 / 25,873,000 = 0.44% of Scotland’s electricity, virtually none of it in winter and none of it at night. As discussed in that earlier post, solar PV may have a role to play in sunny climates but is a complete waste of time and money in Scotland. Let’s remind us of what WWF had to say:
And, in the tens of thousands of Scottish households that have installed solar panels saw them meet two-thirds or more of their electricity or hot water needs from the sun during several months of the year, helping those homes to reduce their reliance on coal, gas, or even oil.”
Which unfortunately gets misreported in the local press as saying:
with solar power meeting two-thirds or more of household electricity or hot water needs
And WeatherEnergy add this:
The data clearly show that there’s plenty of sunshine to meet a significant proportion of an average family’s electricity needs for most months of the year – even during some of the winter months!
The chart shows German electricity production in January 2013 (click it to enlarge). The chart is from Prof. Bruno Burger, Fraunhofer Institute, Germany. Germany is further south and sunnier than Scotland and has vastly more solar PV installed per capita. Click the chart for a large version and get a magnifying glass to observe the barely visible solar contribution. Wondering where all the power is coming from? Well the grey is coal, gas and nuclear. Who are WWF and WeatherEnergy trying to fool and why?
- Higher electricity prices for all, paid via feed in tariffs and renewable obligation certificates (consumer paid subsidies), borne for the time being by the whole of the UK.
- Wind turbine power stations degrade landscape, cause anxiety to some in affected areas and reportedly kill birds, especially raptors.
- Potential losses for tourism industry
- Potential destabilisation of power grid as renewable penetration grows
- More power lines and inter-connectors
- Need for 100% backup meaning that the size of our power generation system is doubled
- Wear and tear on conventional generators that need to follow load
- Losses for conventional generators as they lose market share and pricing power but whose continued existence is essential as back up and to balance parasitic renewables
Benefits to Scottish people
The question needs to be asked, why are The World Wildlife Fund and WeatherEnergy championing renewables in Scotland? Their press release is biased, vague and ambiguous, and journalists may be forgiven for reaching the wrong conclusions and miss reporting it. It would appear this is the intention.
The Scottish Government and Press would do well to remember in future that the WWF are pedlars of cheap propaganda designed to advance their own objectives (whatever those may be) at the expense of the Scottish people.
* The data is provided by WeatherEnergy, part of the European EnergizAIR project, supported by the Intelligent Energy Europe Programme, led by the European Agency for Competiveness and Innovation (EACI). The project currently has partners in ten European countries. Severn Wye Energy Agency is the UK partner.
Added 12:00 5th January:
Andrew Montford at Bishop Hill has an interesting thread including this Tweet: