It’s one of those things nobody ever speaks out against. But does micro generation have real potential to help us diversify our energy supplies and fight climate change, or is it more like the Emperors new clothes, and nobody wants to be the first to admit it’s a hoax?
The answer is in the numbers, it has to be. How does micro generation stack up against the alternatives, in cost of carbon saved and of energy provided? Here’s the answer.
There are really only two micro generation technologies worth considering, PV and Wind. Others may come along, like CHP, but for now it’s the stuff of legend – try getting your hands on one.
PV – costs £5k per installed kW, and will typically make 1 MWh per year in the UK. Broadly speaking.
A typical micro Wind turbine of 1kW will cost £2k to install and will produce virtually nothing in an urban setting. This is the situation with the first generation of micro wind.
But second generation machines are coming – let’s use those as a better example.
Micro Wind 2.0 – should cost about £3k for a 1kW machine, which might produce about 1MWh per year. This is best case though, and it may not happen.
Compare these figures to what I call Macro generation – Big Wind.
Big Wind – costs £1k per installed kW and will typically make about 3 MWh per annum.
So that’s one fifth the cost of PV and 3 times the output – 15 times cheaper.
And one third the cost of micro Wind 2.0 and 3 times the output – 9 times cheaper.
These cost ratios apply equally to the cost of energy produced and the cost of carbon saved.
These are the cold hard facts, what you pay and what you get.
Does it make sense to pay up to 15 times more for renewable energy than we need to?
There’s only so much money we can throw at anything, climate change and renewables included. And whatever budget we set for PV, we could build 15 times more renewables, save 15 times more carbon – with Big Wind.
So why does micro gen feature so prominently in ‘government planning’ (if that’s not an oxymoron)?
It’s about political cowardice. Big Wind needs politicians to face down NIMBYs, they’re afraid to, so instead they talk up Offshore wind (costs a mere twice as much as Onshore) and the cuddly voter friendly micro generation – every roof top should have one. But consider this….
1% of the UK’s electricity from Big Wind might cost £1 Billion.
On the same basis that 1% from PV would cost £15 Billion.
10% from wind would cost £10 Billion.
10% from PV would cost £150 Billion.
So for the cost of 10% from PV we could have 150% of our electricity from wind!
It’s crazy to be even considering large scale micro generation deployment in the face of these numbers.
It’s the most expensive way to save carbon even including building new nuclear power stations! If we had no other options then fine, but we’ve not even scratched the surface of our Big Wind potential.
It’s time to be honest about micro generation – I think the Emperor is naked.