Opinion: We need more onshore wind turbines, not less

Hadyard Hill Wind Farm, Scotland. Photo credit: Wikipedia.
By Anders Lorenzen

Travelling through the countryside of Germany and Denmark, there is hardly at any point you can’t see any wind turbines spinning in the background. Even in deeply conservative Texas, in the US, wind turbines are becoming a more dominant factor in the landscape and here is the thing – people like it.


In the UK despite relatively few onshore wind turbines having been put up, (with the majority being in Scotland who could gain independence from the UK later this year) right wing politicians and some noisy groups, which are in the minority, are putting up a big fight against them. The number one argument being used is that they spoil the countryside and to back that up, arguments are also being made that they are inefficient and that they kill birds.


The real threats to the British countryside
Their arguments could not have been more flawed as they forgot to mention that the countryside has already been spoiled, destroyed and polluted by intensive farming and it could be about to suffer another blow, as fracking is set to take off. Unlike fracking and intense farming a wind turbine poses no harm to the natural environment. When they’re taken down at the end of their lifetime (typically 25 years) there would have been no impact on wildlife and the countryside. Though this can’t be said for farming or fracking. The amount of pesticides that the majority of farmers are using these days not only pollutes the soil that wildlife depend on, but also contributes to the die off of pollinating bees and insects. Laws that require farmers to plant hedgerows of wildflowers that attracts bees and pollinating insects do not exist. On fracking, let’s just assume (which is very unlikely) that there won’t be any spills, the amount of chemicals pumped into the ground to extract gas, will mean that when every available unit has been extracted, it would have had a severe impact on the countryside – the sheer scale of industrialization that fracking brings would also contribute to drive away wildlife.


Wind is working
The other myths that they don’t work or they cause the killing of birds is nothing but a myth. Sure enough, there have been some instances where birds have flown into turbines and been killed. But so have they been killed flying into pylons, but the real staggeringly high number of birds killed is due to increased industrialization, intense farming, and pollution from traffic and fossil fuel powered plants. I find it hard not to laugh when people say wind turbines don’t work. One would just have to look at how much electricity Denmark and the UK get from wind power on windy days – the data is being published by the national grids and is available to anyone.


Love fracking, hate wind
Despite the people opposing wind is only a minority, the Tories plan on introducing moratorium on future onshore wind farms coming into effect by 2020. Though it is yet to be confirmed by the party, it is expected that in the 2015 manifesto that the Conservatives will go to election on  there would be a moratorium on onshore wind turbines. Their sentiments are that it has been self defeating to have an energy technology which is so unpopular. In contrast, despite fracking currently being the most unpopular energy technology in the UK, with public support declining, the government are committed that this will happen whether the public like it or not.


Offshore instead of onshore
Despite these developments, the government still claims they are a leader on green energy singing their praises on their achievements in solar energy and offshore wind power. To be fair let’s give the government a bit of credit for their achievements on offshore wind and solar. However, we have to seriously question the economic sense in giving up onshore wind as years of investments have made it the cheapest form of renewables we can install today. The same is happening with offshore wind as countries are starting to deploy it, but it’s not quite there yet, it still remains expensive and it will be a while before costs have come down to those of onshore wind power. While we should keep investing in offshore wind which will drive down the costs, giving up on onshore wind is simply insanity.


We do however have to be more clever about how it is deployed. Installing it in less attractive areas makes sense, such as industrial areas and close to busy roads. The planning process should also be sped up; it’s insane how long time proposals can linger in the system before they’re even being looked at.

In Denmark and Germany, while there have been some people against onshore wind, it has been drowned by the supporters, and the main political parties on the left and the right also remain in strong support of the technology. While in Texas it has given farmers suffering from devastating droughts an alternative income.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

Related news:
Denmark in world wind power record
US wind power sees record growth

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2 responses to “Opinion: We need more onshore wind turbines, not less

  1. “People like it” is an entirely subjective comment. Who are these people? Did they care about non-industrialized rural scenery before the white machines started invading it? Are they profiting from turbines on their land or just stuck watching (and hearing) the spinning skyscrapers? Do they approve of desecrated mountaintops where so many turbines are installed? Is noise a non-issue? How about birds and bats dying in increasing numbers? There are already over 250,000 wind turbines tainting the globe and fanboys want to see several million. How is an industrial-looking planet “greener” without extreme rationalizations?

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  2. Note that most pro-wind articles dismiss wind turbine blight with glib comments about pre-existing blight, as if thousands upon thousands of 400-500 foot towers are visually no different than random grain silos. The author mentions fracking, which is physically much smaller than wind turbines and not intended as a permanent part of the landscape (you can't restore turbine-scapes without removing their functionality, and dismantling them has proven costly and difficult). It takes a huge amount of cognitive dissonance to look the other way at such massive structures looming over landscapes. It also disrespects all the people and animals clearly affected by such machines in their midst. The growing number of protests against wind “farms” is proof that the public is NOT happy with them once a critical mass is exceeded. The inefficiency and intermittent nature of wind power is another big topic, subject to more layers of denial from those who stand to profit from subsidies and hastily drawn plans that show no respect for rural life.

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