On March 1st, the Dutch right-wing political party JA21 tweeted that they would not want to see the Netherlands covered with wind turbines but instead prefer to build nuclear power plants. JA21 asserts nuclear energy to be a “clean and stable energy source”. In their tweet they claim that 4,400 wind turbines generate the same amount of electricity as three nuclear power plants. According to the party, the Netherlands would need an area as large as the province of Utrecht to place all 4,400 turbines. But JA21 based their calculations on an older model of wind turbines. The claim turns out to be mostly false.
JA21 states that 4,400 wind turbines would be required to generate the same amount of energy as three nuclear power plants. “This government wants to fill every square inch with inefficient wind turbines and pollute the horizon by doing so.” On their website, the party published a nuclear energy plan comprising two new nuclear power plants. They later explained that the third plant is the active one in Borssele.
The comparison made by JA21 is based on numbers from the Electriciteits Productiemaatschappij Zuid-Nederland (EPZ), that happens to be the owner of the nuclear power plant in Borssele. According to EPZ spokesperson Monique Linger the three nuclear power plants would generate a combined power of 3,685 megawatt-hours (MWh): the new plants would generate 1500 MWh each and the one in Borssele 685 MWh. They would be active 92 percent of the time, producing 32.2 terawatt-hours (TWh).
The Regionale Energie Strategie (RES) states that to compare the output of nuclear power plants and wind turbines, the power of the energy source should be converted to the total power in one year. For this, the power output must be multiplied by the number of hours in a year (8,760). According to the RES, modern wind turbines generate 5 MW. They rotate around 40 percent of the time, equal to 3,500 hours. So, in order to produce the same amount of energy as the power plants, a total of 1,695 wind turbines would be required, which is a considerably lower number than the 4,400 claimed by JA21.
The RES concludes the statement made by JA21 is wrong, because they based their calculations on old 3 MW wind turbines. The modern types have a considerably higher capacity and rotate for many more hours a year. Only if the 3 MW wind turbines rotate for approximately 2300 hours a year they would approach a number of 4,400 wind turbines. But still, in this scenario the assumption is based on the most beneficial situation for nuclear energy and the least beneficial one for renewable energy.
We consider the claim made by JA21 to be mostly false. 1,695 wind turbines will generate the same amount of energy as three nuclear power plants, which is 2,705 fewer than according to the calculations made by JA21. They used a scenario in which the power plants run under the most favorable conditions, and according to the RES the numbers used for wind turbines were unrealistic. However, according to the EPZ, the 5 MWh mentioned by the RES is far too optimistic, as research by the Dutch Bureau of Statistics (CBS) showed that the average power stagnates at 2.4 MWh. The RES responded by saying it is unrealistic to refer to those numbers, since the older turbines will not be built anymore.The facts behind the statement: as long as the modern and more powerful wind turbines are not being used, the JA21 statement is correct. 4,400 turbines would be required to generate just as much energy as three nuclear power plants.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE Finn Mellema, Jamie Verhagen
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