In the debates about the environmental effects of wind farms and wind turbines, it’s unfortunate that a lot of media coverage is given to those that see them as a blight on the land and the offshore seascapes; towering monstrosities of evening sunlight deflection and distracting noise. many of these people have never been near a wind farm and have just chosen to follow sheep-like those who for whatever reason prefer misguided emotion to the facts and empirical evidence. Here’s an attempt to redress the imbalance.
Some ten years ago a MORI poll commissioned by the Scottish Executive to undertake a study examining the attitudes of people living close to Sottish wind farms. The survey showed that people living near Scotland’s (then) ten largest wind farms strongly supported more of Scotland’s energy needs being produced by the wind. 82% wanted an increase in electricity generated from wind power, whilst more than 50% supported an increase in the number of wind turbines at their local wind farm. 20% said that their local wind farm has had a broadly positive impact on the area, as opposed to a negative impact. In a follow-up 2010 survey 52% disagreed with the statement that wind farms are “ugly and a blot on the landscape”. 59% agreed that wind farms were necessary and that how they looked was unimportant. The 2010 study suggests that the majority of people in Scotland are in support of green energy including wind power
In 2013, a New YouGov research survey for Scottish Renewables showed Scots are twice as likely to favour wind power over nuclear or shale gas. Over six in ten (62%) people in Scotland said that they would support large scale wind projects in their local area, more than double the number who said they would be generally for shale gas (24%) and almost twice as much as nuclear (32%).
Now the Scots sometimes have a reputation for being pernikerty, resistant to change and quick to show their opposition to anything “new-fangled”. Not so here in these surveys! At a more local level the Androssan Wind Farm on the west coast of Scotland seems to have been overwhelmingly accepted by the locals. Instead of spoiling the landscape, local people believe it has enhanced the area. According to one of the town’s councillors:
My family recently spent some time in the vicinity of both offshore and onshore wind farms in the East of England, including a stay in a hotel within sight and occasionally sound of some turbines. It was quite warm and my sons had their bedroom windows open as the sun went down. One said that the proximity of the turbines had no effect on him whatsoever, good or bad. They were just there and not affecting him. My youngest said that he stared for a long time out of the window as the sun went down between the rotating blades and found it so moving that he wrote a poem about it! He also said that he was lulled off to sleep by the faint sound of the nearest turbines turning in the wind.
“Silver Guardians of the setting sun
With your gentle whooshing till the day is done
You gentle giants that caress the breeze
You do nothing to me except please!
Long may you stand with proud turning
Making a stand against fossil fuel burning
I bid you good night as I close my window on this scene
Of man’s attempts to make the world green”
Some west coast ambient musicians have incorporated the sounds of wind turbines in their audioscapes, and they have even been included in sleep-inducing music tapes on download to compliment other soothing tones such as running streams, light rain on roofs and the dawn chorus!
There is also some evidence that offshore wind turbines can have a calming effect on strong winds and may even be able to prevent hurricanes coming ashore!