We weren’t blinkered in the CEGB. We were well aware that wind energy CAN be credited with firm capacity [see Swift-Hook, D. T., 1987 “Firm power from the wind” Wind Energy Conversion, Ed. J. M. Galt, (MEP : London) p. 33] and that the cost of off-setting the variability of wind is modest, see attached by David Milborrow.
We had started well before the 1980s. I got together with Stephen Salter on wave power back in 1974, [see for example Swift-Hook, D. T., Count, B. C., Glendenning, I. and Salter, S.) 1975 “Characteristics of a rocking wave power device” Nature, Vol. 254, p. 504. Brian Count subsequently became Chairman of the London Electricity Board, by the way]. At the same time, we contributed to Chris Cockerell [of hovercraft fame] in developing his wave power raft, which also did not succeed.
Garry Hammond’s 1978 paper in Physics in Technology [which I was editing around that time] looked pretty sick just a couple of years later. Not his fault but the Government’s. They had wrapped up the Severn Barrage and all Wave Power research but had increased the total funding considerably, mainly on wind.
The ¼MW machine at Carmarthen Bay was built by James Howden of Glasgow who pulled out of wind power 2 or 3 years later when they secured the contract for a large borer to bore the English half of the Channel Tunnel. [It’s tough trying to pick winners.]
And it’s tricky trying to say what would have happened if we had put more money in than was enough to support just one large megawatt-sized machine. The Americans put in enough to build a dozen or more of them, their 2-bladed Mod series, very much the type which we ourselves would have built if money had been forth-coming, and that whole part of the US programme failed i.e failed to get anything into commercial production.
Their big success was to pour money into subsidies designed to encourage commercial wind farms – the Californian wind rush – but most of that money landed up in the pockets of Danish manufacturers. It did not stimulate US manufacturing industry at all. Its fair to say that the US ceded the lead to the Danes with full Government support.
Even being wise after the event is not easy!
Prof Donald T Swift-Hook, Visiting Professor, Kingston University,
MA, MSc, PhD, CEng, FIET, CSci, FEI, CPhys, FInstP, CMath, FIMA, MInstD,