Answers to my Written Parliamentary Questions – offshore wind power

Department for Energy Security and Net Zero provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (198578):

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, whether she has an estimate of how much CO2 was produced in the (a) manufacture and (b) installation of one gigawatt of offshore wind power within the UK in the last 12 months. (198578)

Tabled on: 11 September 2023

Graham Stuart:

The Department does not publish information related to this request directly, however, the IPCC and UNECE have published estimates related to this request here:

Both estimates demonstrate that the lifecycle CO2 impact of generating electricity from offshore wind is significantly lower than fossil fuels.

The answer was submitted on 19 Sep 2023 at 11:30.


  1. Mark B
    September 22, 2023

    Good morning.

    One thing you forgot to ask Sir John is – What is the environmental impact once these wind turbines have ceased being used ? Are they recycles or, just buried in the ground, and what is the long term environmental impact ?

    Plus. What is the social impact, both on those countries providing the raw materials and those who live close to the turbines.

    I heard somewhere (Autoshenagans – YT) that for Scotland to put up a load of wind turbines, it has to build or revamp roads (think of all that bitumen) and chop down 190,000 trees.

    1. Wil
      September 22, 2023

      I would think the likelihood of offshore wind turbines being disposed of properly at end of life is net zero.
      The Thames estuary is littered with structures remaining from WW2!
      This Includes the wreck of a ship still containing munitions adjacent to a major shipping lane.

    2. Mickey Taking
      September 22, 2023

      ‘buried in the ground’ ? Are you aware of the size of these ‘War of the World’ alien monsters sat on a massive cube of concrete? It will take a whole new industry to break up and do something worthwhile with them.

      1. hefner
        September 23, 2023 23/09/2023 ‘Scotland plans wind turbine recycling hub’. 18/09/2023 ‘Recycling wind turbines not a major headache, EMR’ says. 08/09/2021 ‘Can wind turbines be recycled?’

        Wind turbines have a lifetime of about twenty years, meaning most still have 10+ years before being decommissioned. How comes that on this site of all sites people cannot envisage that ‘the market’ will find a solution to the recycling of wind turbines?

  2. Michelle
    September 22, 2023

    It seems as if the answer to your question is a copy and paste job from our overlords at the UN!!
    It also seems as if the Department doesn’t know the answer, feels it doesn’t really need to as they just parrot whatever UN says.
    Of course I could be completely wrong and the information is top secret (can’t think why) which is why they don’t publish it directly.
    Do they actually know, or is the Department running on best guesses/estimates of UN bodies that have vested interests?

  3. Jude
    September 22, 2023

    That response was a cop out…..where in that document does it say that???
    If this statement was true he should have highlighted the text that proved that claim definitively!
    Think this is a case of civil service being lazy or worse misleading!

  4. John McDonald
    September 22, 2023

    You would expect a figure to be stated. The fact that the Government has not done it’s own assesement just confirms Parliments group think on net -zero and green energy. In fact evidance of typical Globalism. The UN says this, so must be right. The UK will follow the road to ruin for the ordinary citizen. But makes leading Politicians look good on the Western World stage.

  5. Rod Evans
    September 22, 2023

    I think it is a SPADs answer given to the written question.
    At least they had the curtesy not to say look on google as I have done. It is not an acceptable answer to a specific question.
    He could just as easily have said, ‘I can’t be arsed so look up what you are asking for yourself Sir John’.

    1. Mickey Taking
      September 22, 2023

      But the questions keep reminding us that either we get avoiding ‘answers’ or lies.

  6. Original Richard
    September 22, 2023

    Firstly I wouldn’t trust these reports. The Government/CS should be doing their own assessments.

    Secondly why the comparison with simply hydrocarbon generated energy and not with nuclear energy another low CO2 emitting source of energy?

    Could it be because offshore wind requires 1000 times more concrete and steel per unit of power than nuclear and has a quarter of the lifespan compared to nuclear?

    1. hefner
      September 23, 2023

      The IPCC report indeed includes comparisons with nuclear energy (IPCC report, Tables A.III.1 and A.III.2).

  7. Narrow Shoulders
    September 22, 2023

    Given that off and on shore wind is a government strategy for reducing carbon one would expect a feasibility study to have been conducted to ensure that using wind turbines did actually reduce carbon (whether we need to or not the am is to reduce carbon).

    That this study has not been conducted by Labour or Conservative administrations seems to be the same decision making process as was applied to ULEZ expansion despite public consultation. i.e. this SEEMS like a good idea to us so we are going to do it.

    Data – friend to good decision making.

  8. Bryan Harris
    September 22, 2023

    “Both estimates demonstrate that the lifecycle CO2 impact of generating electricity from offshore wind is significantly lower than fossil fuels.”

    But they surely don’t take into account the Co2 cost in manufacturing, delivering, installing, maintaining and disposing of these behemoths.

    There are many hidden costs to ‘offshore wind’ which doesn’t have a long life – whereas coal and oil are proven technology which work no matter what else is going on — Only a dying government so steeped in ideology and with no thought for the future would throw out fossil fuels at this time when there is no technology to replace them.

    1. Bryan Harris
      September 22, 2023

      It seems that even governments can go insane, because that’s what their actions amount to.

    2. hefner
      September 23, 2023

      BH, Do you know the cost of disposing of a nuclear plant? How many have been decommissioned and disposed of in the UK? At what cost?

      According to NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) the present cost is supposed to amount to £23.5 billions for the second generations of nuclear reactors (ie, the AGRs [Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors] Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B, Dungeness B, Heysham 1, Hartlepool, Heysham 2, and Torness).

      This decommissioning (ie, defuelling, not really disposing of) work is assumed to be finished in 2026 or 2030.
      By how much the £131 billions (cumulative cost for the first and second generation of UK nuclear plants) will have increased by 2030 is anybody’s guess.

      I am afraid most critics of renewables do not have any clue of this type of costs for the present nuclear energy plants.

  9. Original Richard
    September 22, 2023

    There is no such thing as wind power, only wind energy. Wind cannot power anything because it is intermittent.

    So did the calculations include the extra CO2 emitted necessary for wind energy to provide reliable and dispatchable power? I doubt it.

  10. Michael Saxton
    September 22, 2023

    This response is disingenuous to say the least! How can government rely on information from the IPCC and UNECE without undertaking a detailed study embracing all the construction processes, cabling requirements etc and costs between On and Offshore wind farm generation? Indeed have they undertaken comparative studies between wind farm generation and nuclear generation? What is going on at the DOE&NZ?

    September 22, 2023

    John, you’re just an irritant to your own party’s leaders. Try exposing them rather than pandering to them

    We all know that Sunak’s volte face on NZ is nothing of the sort and in reality is a con. I bet he didn’t reference the fact that motor manufacturers and dealers must by 2030 ensure that 80% of the cars they sell be EV’s

    And HS2 is a EU incarnation supported by Brown and Adonis. No wonder those in power want to see it continue to create the much vaunted pan-Euro rail network

  12. agricola
    September 22, 2023

    The PM refers to windmills as the most competetive and cheap way of producing electricity. This will be believable when the Green Subsidy is removed from our electricity bills. Until then it is political bullshit and the CO2 they produce in their manufacture a side issue.

    1. Mark
      September 22, 2023

      Quite. What we pay for wind has consistently been above market prices. Perhaps surprisingly that remained true even during the spikes in energy prices last year. The subsidies have all had a nice index linked boost this year too.

      1. Ed M
        September 23, 2023

        Green energy / tech is dropping in price year-on-end and getting more and more efficient.

        There is so much FREE energy in the natural world that we need to tap into. Problem is it takes ingenuity like a raven figuring out how to get food out of jar. The raven will achieve it eventually. The same with man and green energy!

        For me, fossil-fuel lovers are like people over-fond of suckling on their mother’s teat – and scared to move on to new forms of nourishment (and the fossil-fuel haters are just hysterical – got no time for them). We need a mix of both green and fossil but slowly, over time, be completely weaned off fossil fuels. For lots of good CAPITALIST reasons!

        I support Green energy / tech mainly for capitalist reasons – there is loads of MONEY to be made from developing and selling to other countries the Green energy / tech of the future (and related to the High Tech industry in general – like Silicon Valley) and the SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE of developing all this new tech. And that’s what consumers want more and more whether you agree with them or not! And consumers are also Conservative voters (especially young Conservatives and more-and-more, middle-aged ones as well)! And also that I don’t want to be controlled by countries such as Russia (and Iraq or Iran or China or Saudi Arabia etc) for our fuel. I want the UK to be 100% fuel self-sufficient (it’s possible but will take some time). And I am a strong believer in what science can achieve. And lastly I don’t want to live in London (and other UK cities) with all its pollution and noise which Green energy / tech would help to get rid of (plus be amazing to have millions more trees planted in London – not just to get rid of pollution in the air but also because they attract birds, butterflies and the green in the leaves creates a happy chemical in the brain of humans. Something like that).

        Reply. Fine, but you need to understand the massive cost of switching the 80 % of our energy which comes from fossil fuels to renewable electricity, and the many years it will take of massive construction to achieve this.

        1. Ed M
          September 24, 2023

          I agree. It’s a balancing act. We don’t want to upset the short-term economy either (and in particular now when there are so many strains on our economy and large debt to pay off). But I certainly think the whole thing is possible.

  13. fishknife
    September 22, 2023

    One can concieve of a “virtueous” circle where clean renewable energy is used to make the clean engines of wind and solar power. The logical conclusion, in the short term – before efficient storage – is that fossil fuels useage is restricted and use of electricity is rationed when the wind doesn’t blow and we can’t buy it from the French.
    I would observe that Rishy’s U turns are the long awaited result of reality meeting fantasy.
    Can we also allow for Euro 2 cats to be upgraded to Euro 4 rather than scrapping perfectly good vehicles?

  14. glen cullen
    September 22, 2023

    On/Off Shore wind turbines
    Manufactured – China
    Owned – Foreign
    Subsidy – Taxpayer
    Efficiency – Problematic

    1. Ed M
      September 24, 2023

      But so why is China embracing Green Energy and Tech? Not an expert on this but I believe it’s ’cause they’ve figured there’s a tonne of money to be made out of this (whilst tackling pollution in China – the Chinese want to be both wealthy and live in a healthy, aesthetically-pleasing environment which goes back to their ancient culture / civilisation – and where Taoism / Confucianism is still important to their goals / values).

  15. Mark
    September 22, 2023

    The CO2 consequences of installing wind aren’t limited to the installation itself. It has to be grid connected, with extra pylons and cables to route supply to customers. The grid has to adjust operations to accommodate the new capacity, which means that backup generation is operated much less efficiently. There was a study in Ireland that showed the result was no CO2 saving for the gas fired generation that provides the backup. Germany too has seen very little reduction in its emissions despite having substantially more wind and solar installed. It is now going back to coal, since its gas supply is expensive and not reliable. Using coal as backup results in a lot of extra C02 emissions while the plants warm up or idle in preparation for the next demand peak or wind dieback. If instead they operated as baseload the emissions per useful kWh would fall.

  16. Mark
    September 22, 2023

    I note that the IPCC are relying on the flawed concept of LCOE which takes no account of the consequences of installation on the rest if the system. The reality is that as we increase the wind capacity installed various costs start escalating. There are the costs of expanding the grid and building interconnectors to try to export heavily subsidised power surpluses; the costs of additional measures for grid stabilisation required at higher proportions of wind generation; the rising costs of backup due to inefficient use of plant; and perhaps most important of all, the rising cost of curtailment as more and more hours with surplus generation build up. The alternative of storage is economically unfixable.

    Of course, the LCOE figures also assume ZIRP capital costs and fail to account for the big inflation in other costs of wind farms illustrated by the complete failure of several auctions for offshore wind in the US, Spain, and of course the UK.

    DESNZ has to have been aware of the problems many months ago, when applications for pre-qualification for AR5 were not made. They have dithered for months like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Let us hope the new broom will sort them out before we end up with a grid incapable of meeting demand.

  17. David Bunney
    September 26, 2023

    Figures on these things are hard to get and even harder to validate to look at the full supply-chain/life impact of replacing coal/gas with wind-power.

    There are lots of plastics, metal, concrete and mineral-oils used in the creation and operation of these things. Further if you look at many on-shore wind-farm sites in Scotland they actually cut down trees which creates a net negative effect as well as the earth works disturbing heathland and soils. The mining of the copper, zinc and more rare components in the turbines and transformers, the steel tower and concrete base all have a lot of CO2 embodied in the mining of the minerals, its refining and the manufacturing, shipping and construction phase. All also powered by fossil fuels and giving jobs overseas.

    Then we come to the operations comparison. We find that the units require a backup CCGT on standby and they also require a massive expansion of the grid, itself being a lot of steel, copper and other metals that require mining, refining and manufacturing and poured in concrete. If you include batteries to store energy then that is a huge additional requirement of metals. All this mining is also creating a lot of ecosystem destruction and the rate at which the expanse in requirement for metals is going, the ore density and quality of existing mines and the next deposits to focus on is dropping fast. That means moving even more tonnes of rock for every kg of metal or mineral sought, that requires more work to be done by monster fossil-fuel drinking machines and increases both the emissions and the cost of the final product.

    These wind-farms and solar farms also have a very short operational life in comparison with the large combustion plants so after 15 years approximately, you have to start the mining, refining and manufacturing process all over again and spend energy and time decommissioning and recycling the old ones which equally requires ‘work’ to be done and fossil-fuel energy to be spent.

    There is no way to make this cheap, no way to make the environment impact positive, and no way that this helps the economy, jobs or the environment. It is a stupid exercise in money wasting, futility.

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