It never ceases to amaze me what rubbish I hear from people when the subject of windpower comes up in conversation. I do my best to correct them when they are espousing a view that is clearly based on incorrect information. The other day I was told that windpower is becoming “increasingly unpopular” all across the UK. This was based on no statistics or surveys, just an article in a newspaper which said that there was some opposition to a proposed wind turbine development in Scotland. A survey for BBC Scotland has suggested that more than half of adults in Scotland favour renewable energy sources like wind power to supply future needs. Of the 1007 people who responded to the survey, 52% saw renewable energy sources like wind, tidal, solar and wave power as the “preferred method of meeting future energy demands in Scotland”. Interestingly many independent surveys found that people with first hand experience of living near to a wind farm were more in favour than those who had no experience. So I think the mantra here is, go and speak to someone who lives near a turbine and ask them what their experience has been before formulating views pulled from those with a vested interest in fossil fuels!
There have been recent serveys in Norther Ireland too. The fourth in a series of Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) insight articles aimed to provide insight into hot topics for the Northern Ireland and Republic of ireland tourism sector. The fourth, published last Summer, concerned wind farms & offshore wind farms and what potential impact they might have on tourism.
At the heart of the survey it was found that some 52% of domestic tourists would be happy to visit an area which has wind farms, while 40% of RoI tourists also agree with this statement. Fewer visitors agree that offshore wind farms would not spoil their visit to a beach or coastal area and agree that wind farms do not spoil the landscape. However, only 7% of domestic tourists and 4% of RoI tourists agree that offshore wind farms spoil sea views. Overall, where there is a relatively modest level of positivity toward wind farms, the majority of visitors are relatively neutral toward them. Here’s a key table:
Table 2: Attitudes toward wind farms, NI and RoI, 2010
|I would be happy to visit an area that has wind farms|
|Offshore wind farms would not spoil my visit to a beach or coastal area|
|Wind farms and wind turbines do not spoil the landscape|
|Any impact of wind farms on scenery is outweighed by the environmental benefits|
|Overhead power lines and electricity pylons do not spoil the landscape|
|Offshore wind farms spoil sea views|
|I would avoid returning to an area that has wind farms|
Another popular one is that wind turbines are destructive and a health hazard. There are now nearly 100,000 winf turbines world-wide. There have been no significant human health issues. This includes the myth that the low frequency noise genereated by turbines can affect health.
Turning to non-human health, there’s concern about our avian friends. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) make clear that the available evidence suggests that appropriately positioned wind farms do not pose a significant hazard for birds. A paper in Nature, by a large group of scientists including one from the RSPB, indicated that in sample regions covering about 20% of the Earth’s land surface – 15% to 37% of species (not just birds) will be committed to extinction as a result of mid-range climate warming scenarios by 2050.
I’ve also heard that wind turbines are grossly inefficient, produce little power and will not affect climate change. A single 1.8-megawatt turbine can produce enough power for 1,000 homes. The efficiency of turbines is increasing as new technology comes into play. Electricity from wind generation produces no carbon emissions. Fossil fuels do. The world’s scientists are not all wrong, and the EC has set carbon reduction emissions for a reason. They need to be reduced and renewable energy is the way forward.
As for grumbles from NIMBYs and those who believe that the Coalition and Councils are blinkered to local concerns when new sites for wind turbines are propsed, Ministers have made it clear that wind farms should only be located in the appropriate place and that local concerns should be listened to. All wind farm proposals are subject to a strict planning process, addressing environmental, visual and community impacts. The public can and do participate in the planning processes and their views are taken into account at every stage. Projects not meeting planning requirements are refused consent. About a third of all applications are refused. The system works.
Why can’t we have all the wind turbines at sea? This is another common question. Onshore wind is currently the most economically viable renewables technology with scope for expansion, but it will increasingly operate as part of a renewables mix as other technologies come on line. The UK is already the world’s second-biggest offshore wind generator. Plans for further offshore wind farms represent the world’s biggest expansion of renewable energy.
There are other myths and rumours that abound, and some of it does come down to personal choice and views. For every person who bemoans that their view out on the moor might be corrupted by a sea of wind turbines… there’s another, like me, that sees something majestic, theraputic and invigorating in seeing the blades of turbines driven by the wind. I just wish there was enough wind, and enough space, to have a few erected near me in Upper Norwood, South East London, on the site of the old Crystal Palace, burned down in the 1930s, and adjacent to the Eiffel-Tower TV mast!