HC Deb 23 June 1977 vol 933 cc517-9W
Mr. Aitken

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what plans his Department has for research and development into the utilisation of wind energy; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Eadie,

pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 21st February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 408], gave the following further information:

My Department's Energy Technology Support Unit (ETSU) has examined the utilisation of various alternative energy sources. The ETSU report on wind energy, entitled "The prospects for the generation of electricity from wind energy in the United Kingdom" is being published today. I have placed copies in the Library.

The report indicates that exploitation of wind energy using large machines installed in high average wind speeds could become economic if large increases in fossil fuel prices occur. Such wind speeds occur near the coasts, particularly in the West and North, and suitable land sites are hill tops and coastal uplands. The number of suitable sites is limited, and there could be objections to installing large structures at many of them. Much of the technology required for such exploitation is established, and the major uncertainties are in the economic viability and the environmental acceptibility of large scale application.

The report concludes that a clear economic case cannot be made for a programme large enough to make a significant contribution to the nation's energy supply. However, it considers that the prospects for achieving better performance and cost comparison should be kept under review because large-scale aero-generators could become more attractive in the case of future scarcity of other energy sources.

The Secretary of State's Advisory Council on Research and Development (ACORD) accepts this general view on the basis of existing technology, and recommends that, to obtain a firmer estimate of costs, the Department commission a detailed design study for a large machine installed on a prime site. Because of the favourable wind conditions in West Scotland the study will consider Scottish sites.

A jointly funded project has been established to conduct this study with an industrial consortium, consisting of Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co. Ltd.; Electrical Research Association Ltd.; Hawker Siddeley Dynamics Ltd.; Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd.

The South of Scotland Electricity Board and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board will contribute work to the study to the value of £10,000. The total cost of the study will be £160,000: the consortium and the Department of Energy will each contribute £75,000.

The Department will continue to review developments in wind energy technology at home and overseas, including the possibility of offshore siting.

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