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Energy Generation Sources Battle Cheapest Claim

Mirror mirror on the wall, what’s the cheapest of them all

business energy costsEU analysis has claimed to prove the cheapest source of energy once external factors like air quality; human toxicity and climate change are taken into account.

The report is controversial in that its results can and are, being read in different ways enabling alternate conclusions to be drawn however, taking the measurement and reporting of external factors at face value the report informs us that:

For every MWH of electricity generated:

  • Onshore wind costs €105/MWH
  • Nuclear power, offshore wind and solar energy costs €125/MWH.
  • Gas costs €164/MWH and
  • Coal costs up to €233/MWH

Justin Wilkes, the deputy CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) welcomed the findings saying:

“This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

Oliver Joy of EWEA, reflecting on the reticence and outright hostility of the Conservative party to on-shore wind, added:

“Any plans to change policy for onshore wind must be looked at in the context of this report. Investors need long-term visibility. ‘Stop-start’ policies as well as harsh retroactive changes can blindside investors, driving up the risk premium and cost of capital.”

Once the external factors are removed however the results can be viewed in a different way, for instance although it came out as the ‘cheapest’ in the external factor survey wind energy was found to have taken:

  • €38.3bn of public subsidies in 2012,
  • Compared to €22.3bn for gas, coal and nuclear.

The EU did however note that if free carbon allowances to polluters were included in the data, it “would reduce the gap between support for renewables and other power generation technologies.”

Also called into question were the alleged nuances used in evaluating historical subsidies for coal and nuclear.

Frauke Thies, the Policy Director for the European Photovoltaic Industry Association said:

“Despite decades of heavy subsidies, mature coal and nuclear energy technologies are still dependent on similar levels of public support as innovative solar energy is receiving today.

“The difference is that costs of solar continue to decrease rapidly. If the unaccounted external costs to society are included, the report demonstrates that support to fossil fuels and nuclear even by far exceeds that to solar.”

Lies, damn lies, and statistics never has seemed a more relevant phrase.

However taking the results at face value and despite the positive scoring of external factors for wind energy it is unclear whether the report took into account an alleged new peril from wind farms.

Wind Turbines Damaging to Hearing?

That is according to the Royal Society who in their Open Science journal reported research carried out by the University of Munich who found that their studies found that the physical composition of inner ear was “drastically” altered following exposure to low frequency noise, like that emitted by wind turbines.

Under testing it was found that 81% of those exposed to low frequency sound experienced changes in the type of sound being emitted from the inner ear in a part called the cochlear, a spiral shaped cavity which essential for hearing and balance.

Dr Marcus Drexl of the University of Munich explained:

“We explored a very curious phenomenon of the human ear: the faint sounds which a healthy human ear constantly emits.

“These are like a very faint constant whistling that comes out of your ear as a by-product of the hearing process. We used these as an indication of how processes in the inner ear change.

“Usually the sound emitted from the ear stays at the same frequency. But the interesting thing was that after exposure, these sounds changed very drastically.

“They started to oscillate slowly over a couple of minutes. This can be interpreted as a change of the mechanisms in the inner ear, produced by the low frequency sounds.

“This could be a first indication that damage might be done to the inner ear.

“We don’t know what happens if you are exposed for longer periods of time, [for example] if you live next to a wind turbine and listen to these sounds for months of years.

“The lower the frequency the you less you can hear it, and if it is very low you can’t hear it at all.

“People think if you can’t hear it then it is not a problem. But it is entering your inner ear even though it is not entering your consciousness.

“[The study] might help to explain some of the symptoms that people who live near wind turbines report, such as sleep disturbance, hearing problems and high blood pressure”.

At least there is one positive, with failing hearing at least you won’t have to put up with listening to subjective arguments on whose energy is the best once you’ve lived next to a wind farm for a few years. Small mercies.