Renewable energy: wind farms

I’ve been wanting to post something about this for quite a while. It’s a subject that seems rife with debate right now, and one that I think needs to be taken seriously, but I’m wary of striking up a debate that I just have no time for any more, having spent hours in the past searching Google for information and news.

Jo and I have a keen interest in wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy. While we lived in York, we kept up-to-date with a proposal for a wind farm near Selby in Yorkshire. Having met with complaints, particularly concerned with the welfare of local birdlife (claims downplayed by the RSPB), the wind farm now appears to be going ahead into planning stages.

Having just moved down to Devon, we’ve found that the area has much the same battle going on with wind farms. Jo’s written a bit on her blog on what she thinks about wind power and wind farms.

One proposed wind farm at Hinkley, near Bridgewater in Somerset, recently had planning permission refused. There were two cases against the proposed wind farm. Primarily, a report found that there may be a small risk of a blade breaking and hitting the nuclear power station that currently sits near the proposed site. The risk is tiny and the developer even said that they would agree to not build the three turbines nearest the power station that were considered a risk. Secondly, there was concern for a population of bats living in the area. Claims that the feeding routes of the bats would be disturbed were found to be unsubstantiated. The local council brought forward the date of the public consultation for this wind farm by one day. Permission was refused. Er, why?!

Another wind farm in the area is proposed for Batsworthy Cross, the highest point between Dartmoor and Exmoor. Great! It would be a good point for a farm.

At the EcoTech Centre in Swaffham, they have a turbine that you can go up in and see the view from their viewing platform. I wanted to go during the Wind Weekend over the August Bank Holiday, but we couldn’t make it. I think such a viewing platform would be a fantastic addition to the area, for example, at a good viewpoint such as Batsworthy Cross. Some seem to think wind turbines are ugly and will ruin the countryside and affect local tourism. I actually find wind turbines elegant and have been stunned by wind farms I have seen. One in particular I remember passing on the way back to York from a holiday in the Lake District via the moors. I wish I could remember whereabouts it was. If anything, I think a viewing platform would attract tourists to a wind farm rather than repelling them! We’ve been told there isn’t going to be one of these at Batsworthy though – a shame, but it’s not as if you don’t get good views from there anyway.

Some anti-wind groups seem to think that wind farms are not good enough at producing electricity. Firstly, I’d point out that there are other sources of renewable energy, so it’s not as if there aren’t other sources to help generate the power we need. It may not be as promising as other renewable energy technologies, but wind power is the most mature at the moment. So, what’s wrong with erecting wind farms, supporting them and the research into other forms of renewable energy? And what’s the alternative at the moment? Oh yeah – nuclear power plants. I would much rather see graceful wind turbines than the ugly power plants that scar the landscape. If you are anti-wind, are you saying that you would rather have one of these giant power plants in your back yard?

I resent the comment made by a speaker from the Realistic Energy Forum at a conference at the end of 2004, who said: “The younger people are, the less they know” when asked by a member of the audience whether it was mainly the older generation that opposed wind farms. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the younger generation might be the only ones with their heads screwed on, while all the council officials side with the (mostly minority) complaints of the uninformed. Also, it is the younger generations who will have to deal with the consequences of not doing enough now to lessen or stop global warming.

So, my closing thoughts on this one? Well, anyone who lives near a wind farm and can’t stand them, I’ll buy your house from you and install some solar panels on the roof.