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Wind produces more CO2 than gas - the numbers

Ever since Gordon Hughes' report noted that wind power was more likely to produce more carbon dioxide emissions than gas, I have been looking for the figures behind the claim. In the comments, someone has now posted some details that seem to meet the bill. Although these are not Hughes' own numbers -they were submitted in evidence to Parliament by an engineer -  I assume they are similar.

[A]s wind rarely produces more than 25% of its faceplate capacity it needs 75% backup - which due to the necessity of fast response times needs OCGT generation (CCGT can respond quickly but the heat-exchanger systems upon which their increased efficiency relies, cannot - so CCGT behaves like OCGT under these circumstances). CCGT produces 0.4 tonnes of CO2 per MWh, OCGT produces 0.6 tonnes. Thus 0.6 tonnes x 75% = 0.45 tonnes. Conclusion: Wind + OCGT backup produces more 0.05 tonnes of CO2 per MWh than continuous CCGT.

Now, where does the alternative view - the one proclaimed by Grantham Institute man Robert Gross - come from?

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Reader Comments (57)

There are two distinct practical problems with wind power.

1. Unreliability. Output can range from 0% to 100% of installed capacity.
2. Short–term variability in output, causing difficult-to-manage grid instability.

As reported in December 2007 by The Guardian, Dr Sue Ion, the vice president of the Royal Academy of Engineering said that in order to preserve grid stability, wind power is limited to about 20% of total electricity requirement.

Aug 19, 2012 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie


I was writing about where we are supposed to be by 2016/7 - see the ministerial statement I cited above. I think the figure is 34% by 2020. It's delusional, of course, because, if it is supposed to be achieved by wind power, it would mean commissioning about 15 huge wind turbines per day for the next 4/5 years. I'm unaware of any plans to massively expand our biomass and waste-to-energy resources. Have you reference for this?

Aug 19, 2012 at 7:03 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

I stand corrected Robin.

The biomass and waste is just being hosted in the press, presumably leaks. It's all about the ambiguous wording of the Energy White paper apparently

Aug 19, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree


"There are two distinct practical problems with wind power."

Plus one major salient issue - we have not yet found out how to keep them working!

Those involved say they work, from the outside there are questions, from the redundant oil offshore maintenance teams comes a big, YES, bring it on!

Large rotatating kit offshore means big, mega, big maintenace budgets!

Of course wind mills work!

Aug 19, 2012 at 11:14 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

And the wind turbines themselves draw power from the grid. All the motors, hydraulic pumps, and controls that point the turbine nacelle into the wind; the computer systems that interconnect the turbine with the power companies control center, and the heaters that keep ice from forming on the blades.

The people who really want these turbines the most are the utilities companies that build the high tension power lines. The wind towers are out in such remote sections of the country side that it takes hundreds of miles of newly constructed power line to connect the turbines to the grid.

Aug 20, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeftyJo

Denmark is the world leader in windmills, 21% of demand by wind, but they havent closed any power stations & they pay at least twice as much as any one else. I've just looked on- - for price/MW Norway = 26.92, Sweeden = 34.41, Denmark = 60.04 !!! Euro/MW

pure madness.

Aug 21, 2012 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreaking Wind

Thanks For Your valuable posting, it was very informative. Am working inCloud Erp In India

Apr 6, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBharathi Baskar.B

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