However, in the middle of his discourse, he dropped in a statistic. The areas of mid Wales where wind farms are being built are at such a distance from the National Grid, he claimed, that 30% of the electricity produced is lost before it even gets to the grid. It reminded me rather of the claim that 78.6% of all statistics used by politicians (including of course that figure of 78.6%) are made up on the spot.
The 30% figure is one often quoted – there are plenty of instances of that or a similar figure to be found on the Internet, but what is the basis for it? I got involved in a lengthy debate with one of Plaid’s Assembly candidates in another blog post on this very question about two years ago. He quoted the same figure at me. His response to my question about the source of the statistic met, initially, with repeated and vehement assertion that the figure was correct and an expectation that I would simply accept it. Eventually however he admitted that he had no basis whatsoever to justify the use of that figure.
There are losses during transition of course. The National Grid estimates them at around 2% for high-voltage transmission system and up to another 6% for the lower voltage distribution system, making a total maximum loss of around 8%. The most usual response of opponents to this is the Mandy Rice Davies rebuttal – “they would say that wouldn’t they?”. Well, yes, they would; but that isn’t enough to make it untrue.
The higher the voltage, the lower the losses; so at the proposed voltage for the link from the Mid Wales wind farm to the Grid, the loss would probably be in the range of 2 to 6%. Ironically, the lower voltages preferred by anti-wind campaigners in order to have smaller pylons would actually put that figure closer to the top end of that range that it would otherwise be. In any event, however, it is still hugely below the 30% suggested.
Apart from my natural aversion to made-up and unjustifiable statistics, does it even matter? Clearly transporting expensive fossil fuels to the middle of nowhere and then burning them to generate electricity which loses a large proportion of energy before reaching its point of use would be a silly thing to do. But, even if the loss from wind farms were to be 30%, rather than the more realistic figure of 3-5%, the advantage of wind power is that the fuel is essentially “free” and, for all practical purposes, is unlimited. So losing part of it en route really isn’t a problem in the way presented.
The 30% figure is not only hopelessly inaccurate; even if it were true it does nothing for the argument in support of which it is being deployed.