I WONDER what the supporters of wind power would think of a company that manufactured an item at a cost of £3 but was able to sell it for only £1 because of competition in the market.

I WONDER what the supporters of wind power would think of a company that manufactured an item at a cost of £3 but was able to sell it for only £1 because of competition in the market. I suggest that such a company would very quickly go out of business unless it was in receipt of massive subsidies.

This is precisely the situation in the wind-power industry, where each pound's worth of electricity generated receives a Government subsidy of £2.

Generating electricity using nuclear power, taking into account the build costs, running costs and eventual decommissioning costs, is significantly more expensive than using gas but it is still only half the cost of wind power.

The obvious question is: why should wind power be so expensive when we all know that wind is free?

The first reason is that the wind turbines are relatively expensive to erect, even if based on land, and they require regular maintenance.

In addition, a typical land-based turbine will generate useful power for only about 25 per cent of the time. This means that, on average, it will be doing nothing useful for nine months of the year. Off-shore turbines are slightly better, since they stand idle for only eight months in each year.

I should also point out that the figure for land-based turbines is typical and the low-lying ones achieve even less than 25 per cent.

There is also the problem that the best sites for wind power, such as Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands, are not close to the areas with the highest electricity consumption. This will mean that a substantial expansion of the electricity grid will be needed, with lots of new pylons and cables at high cost.

Finally, there is the fact that the wind is intermittent and rather unpredictable. There is no way of storing large quantities of electricity for when it is needed, and therefore the wind generating capacity must be matched with at least as much conventional generating plant.

It is clear that the Government sees wind power as a way of meeting its commitment to reducing carbon emissions, and the highly visible nature of the turbines gives the impression that positive steps are being taken.

However, other technologies, such as landfill gas power plants, tidal power and, of course, nuclear power, are technically proven and can provide reliable year-round power at lower cost.

ROY L WHITE

The Avenue

Godmanchester