Freethinkeruk’s Weblog

UK Political weblog

Wind Turbines

It seems that it doesn’t matter in which part of the country you live, as soon as a proposal is put in for planning consent to build wind turbines there is immediately a local campaign set up to oppose them.

In some cases of course there are indeed good reasons for opposition and a perfect example would be the plan (now scrapped thankfully) to build a 420ft turbine at the Eden Project in Cornwall. This turbine at twice the height of Nelson’s Column would be seen for miles in one of the most beautiful parts of Britain. By the way, the Eden Project is a registered charity and has gobbled up huge grants from the Lottery and other sources but is in fact a massive tourist attraction which is probably why they wanted to erect a record breaking turbine.

As a nation we need energy and we need to reduce our carbon emissions and wind generated energy does both. Yes, the wind does not always blow but it usually blows somewhere in the UK so electricity production can be almost continuous. Wave and tidal movement is continuous although conditions obviously pose problems to be solved and ‘clean’ coal fired power stations may also contribute to our needs.

One thing is certain though, if wind powered generation is opposed and rejected at the rate that it is then the Government will have a perfect excuse to say that nuclear power is essential. Now what would you rather have near you, a windmill or a nuclear power station? These in fact create carbon emissions in the mining and extraction of uranium along with huge health problems for those involved who are mostly in the developing world. The risks of a nuclear accident are real, remember Three Mile Island, Windscale, Chernobyl. The radioactive waste must be managed for upwards of 5,000 years and so committing hundreds of generations to vast cost and risk.

When a wind farm proposal comes up near us let’s stop and think for a moment before jumping on the anti campaign. After all, they are really quite beautiful in a modern sculpture sort of way.

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7 thoughts on “Wind Turbines

  1. buglechap on said:

    ‘…would be seen for miles in one of the most beautiful parts of Britain…’ – have you ever been to the Clay Country? Those of us who live there are fond of it, but it remains one of the most industrially degraded areas of Britain. Eden itself was built in a worked-out China clay pit where nothing grew, and is now a symbol of what can be achieved – and yes, of COURSE it’s a tourist attraction, the income from which supports all the other stuff Eden does worldwide, programmes, partnerships – stuff you clearly haven’t bothered to find out about, and which gives it the right to call itself an educational charity. The opposition to Eden’s turbine consisted of about 50 locals, and in my opinion it’s a tragedy the won – they’ve set the cause of renewable energy back by years. If the energy produced by all the bile and bitterness Eden seems to produce could be harnessed, you could power a small town. In the universe I inhabit the term freethinker means somewhat more than sitting on your arse and spouting off in a state of ignorance.

  2. Hi Buglechap. As it happens I live on the edge of clay country only about three miles from the Eden Project. I too share your fondness for the area along with the rest of Cornwall.

    I’m also pleased that I inhabit the universe of your choice, in that I do not ‘sit on my arse and spout off in a state of ignorance’ as I sit on my arse armed with information and think freely!

    The point of my posting was of course that wind energy should as far as possible be supported and encouraged but also that there will be occasions when they should be opposed. The Eden turbine being merely an example. I would rather not get side tracked into the Eden Project but must refute at least some of your points.

    Eden withdrew their planning application in the face of massive local opposition and if it was just a ‘few locals’ I doubt they would have done so. In fact I did not meet one person who was in favour although there must have been a few.

    I quite enjoy going to EP occasionally for a change but it’s definitely a tourist attraction which a look at their home page http://www.edenproject.com/ will evidence. As for being a beacon for energy saving, carbon reducing, green living etc why do they have a fleet of buses running round all day long, picking up car drivers from the car park so that they don’t even have to walk to the entrance? Coaches arrive from practically all parts of the UK for day trips adding their Co2 to the buses. The tropical and mediteranean ‘biomes’ require enormous amounts of heat (more Co2) and although they are of some interest will add nothing to the sum total of global knowledge.

    I accept that EP do involve themselves in ecological investigation but I can’t find anything that isn’t already being done by larger bodies and of course, being the cynic that I am, they are necessary to maintain various funding incomes.

    A tourist venue must in order to survive keep adding attractions or those visitors who have been will not come again, as for example at Alton Towers. This is just what EP is doing and a record breaking height for a wind turbine would be just one addition had it gone through.

    I like the EP and it’s great for bringing in tourists and generates much needed income and employment to the county.

  3. buglechap on said:

    Oops! I apologise for my intolerant rant. I work at Eden, as you might have deduced, and I get so frustrated at the constant sniping. Eden is full of people who work their butts off trying to make a difference, one way or another. Yes, there are inconsistencies: yes, there is a carbon footprint (whoever said there wouldn’t be one? at least we’re trying to improve matters), yes, there are crowds (pretty happy ones, by and large) – but by the same token there are jobs (500+); there are local suppliers, farmers, B&Bs etc whose financial circumstances have been considerably eased over the past ten years; there are schools and communities in Kenya, India, the Gambia and Thailand whose lives have been utterly transformed by Eden; there are mining companies worldwide who have been nudged into cleaning up their act by Eden; and so on. The city of Brisbane wants Eden’s help and advice in easing their citizens through the next 25 years or so; the city of St Austell couldn’t give a shit.

    We are fallible beings and we wrestle with the inconsistencies all the time, some of which of course are supplied by the master bullshitter and visionary at the helm. The wind turbine was an attempt to deal with some of them; it wasn’t that high so we could say we had the biggest wind turbine, it was that high because that was how high it needed to be to supply the power we needed from one turbine. As it happens the figures were showing 51% in favour in the St Austell area, 49% against, a considerably higher % in favour in the rest of Cornwall. From memory, Restormel supplies 0.7% of the renewable energy in Cornwall, and we thought it was about time that went up. It was not to be, but I don’t believe it was the strength of the opposition that did for us, I think the boss lost his bottle, and now we’re committed to trying to put together a renewables policy with a bunch of NIMBYs. Sigh…

    I seem to have committed another rant. Ignore it.

  4. It’s no ‘rant’ Buglechap, it’s strong feelings expressed strongly and I appreciate that.

    I guessed that you might work at EP and maybe I’m wrong but it seems to me that the staff enjoy their work there and I’m sorry that I hear 40 are to lose their jobs.

    I can’t help myself being a cynic and always looking for what’s in it for someone so I’ve been trying to find Eden Trust annual accounts in the unlikely hope that they will show how much the ‘boss’ gets to take home out of this charity. Unfortunately the web site stops downloading for some reason before it gets to the money part. No, no, I’m not going down the paranoia route just yet and will try again.

  5. buglechap on said:

    As far as I know (and I know him pretty well) he gets a fair whack, but I have no reason to suppose that what he’s getting is out of line with what other charity CEOs get, particularly charities with turnover in excess of £20m. The Trustees keep a very close watch on things…anyway, the accounts don’t show directors’ salaries – presumably because they are not required to, I don’t know how these things work. The notion that he’s getting rich on the back of Eden is one of the more pernicious bits of Cornish folk wisdom that goes the rounds these days, eg that he was going to fill his boots on the proceeds of the wind turbine. It’s bollocks.

  6. I just love Cornish Folk Wisdom don’t you? I’m happy as you know Tim Smit pretty well, to accept that this particular bit of wisdom is bollocks.

    After thought. Behind most folk lore there is usually a little truth. 🙂

  7. buglechap on said:

    I think we can safely say that he takes home less than the Glorious Leader of the Unitary Authority will. The world seems to be divided between those who think Smit walks on water and those (mostly in Cornwall) who think he’s too big for his boots and needs to be taken down a peg or three. In truth, you won’t be surprised to hear, the truth lies somewhere in between. He’s an energetic chap who had a couple of big ideas and won’t take no for an answer, and has the happy knack of getting people to agree to do things they had no idea they wanted to do. He could bullshit for Britain, but it’s remarkable how often his flights of fancy come to pass. Not getting the Edge vote was the first real setback he had had, and brought home rather forcibly the fact that, in Cornwall at least, people were no longer quite as impressed by Eden as he (we) thought. Hence my theory about losing his bottle over the wind turbine – much of the animus was highly personal, and like anybody else he doesn’t much enjoy being stuck in the stocks and having eggs chucked at him.

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