Saturday, January 31, 2009
Power per unit land area of windfarms
As I've said in SEWTHA (the book), the average power per unit land area of a typical well-located onshore windfarm in Britain is about 2 watts per square metre. (Or 2 MW per square km.) This number is my estimate of the best that can be done in Britain, and, as I explained in the appendix, the theoretical power per unit land area doesn't depend very much on the size of the turbines used, because bigger turbines are spaced further apart.
I'm always keen to check my numbers and update them if necessary. Today the the New Scientist interview with James Lovelock prompted me to write a blog article giving explicit data from a real windfarm. James Lovelock says "to spoil all the decent countryside in the UK with wind farms is driving me mad. It's absolutely unnecessary, and it takes 2500 square kilometres to produce a gigawatt - that's an awful lot of countryside." That's a power per unit area of 0.4 W/m2, which is 5 times smaller than my 'best possible' 2 W/m2 estimate.
Let's look at some data. I picked a random windfarm in Britain with ten 27m-diameter turbines: Blood Hill windfarm. The helpful REF website gives exact energy-generation statistics for several years. The collage at the top of this page shows the data, and a map of the site, which is very close to the sea in Norfolk. What's the area of this site? The blue grid lines are 1km squares. I'd say the ten turbines 'occupy' about 0.3 km2 (including an appropriate strip of land around the turbines, where similar size turbines could not be placed). The average output of the ten turbines is 420 kW. So that is a power per unit area of 1.4 W/m2.
If anyone would like to repeat this calculation for real data from other windfarms around Britain or the world, we could collate the answers in the open-source wiki for Sustainable Energy - without the hot air.