20 May 2005

Part of the answer is undoubtedly blowing in the wind

wind farmThe placard waving luddites are at it again in the UK. This time they’re complaining about government plans to build more wind farms, bemoaning the amount of noise they make and how they spoil the lovely countryside.

The facts are that modern wind farms are incredibly quiet. Depending upon wind direction they sound ranges from inaudible to a subdued swishing as the blades pass near the tower. The supposed low frequency noise problem is a myth. You can hear mechanical gearing noise from up close, but usually not from a hundred metres away. People who cite mountains of anecdotal complaints of low frequency noise are either misinformed or deliberately misleading, and the evidence for illness caused by infrasound from wind turbines is tenuous at best, although undoubtedly worthy of further investigation.

Considerable amounts of scientific testing have consistently disproved the Don Quixote lobby’s noise complaints. Similarly, surveys from all over the world show overwhelmingly that opposition to wind farms decreases after people have lived near one for a while.

As for Prince Charles’ suggestion that wind farms are a “blot on the landscape”, he is entitled to his opinion, although I’m not sure why it should get any more airplay than anyone else’s. In that regard it seems that democracy still favours the Royals. Needless to say, I disagree with Charles, and so, it would seem, do the vast majority of people who live near wind farms.

Nevertheless, considerable sensitivity needs to be shown to local communities when deciding on locations for new developments, and perhaps the government has not handled this as well as it might have done. That said, the need to reduce emissions is a public concern more important than the sensibilities of individuals. We are talking about the long-term sustainability of the planet; about the future of our children, and the “blot” argument doesn’t really hold up very well in that context.

Lest anyone think I am as blind in my advocacy of wind farms as I accuse their opponents of being in their opposition, let me look, if not at the other side of the coin, at least at its edge. Wind farms are not the answer to our energy and emission problems, per se. They are, however, an excellent partial answer, with a payback cost similar to other technologies and a very low cost per unit of electricity (lower, for example, than nuclear energy).

It will always be cheaper to save electricity than to generate it. And there can be little doubt that our usage is far too high. But it would be naïve to suggest that lifestyle change will do any more than delay the inevitable need to find long-term energy generation solutions.

In the end, I think we’d all be better of with a little less hot air, and a few more wind farms.Go to eebahgum!

6 comments:

Owen said...

I can't imagine they would spoil the countryside any more than soot from coal power or the four legged children that come from nuclear fallout. If we can get wind power to work, then that's what we need to be doing.

eebahgum! said...

I agree entirely. Thanks for commenting, Owen.

Clive.

eebahgum! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
scruss said...

Thanks; you've made an old windfarm designer very happy ...

eebahgum! said...

Glad to oblige, scruss :-)

Clive.

Richard said...

Well I agree initially - but I don't think Wind farms are all that...try tidal power - totally predictable and it generates more power, water being quite a bit more massive than air.

Wind farms are propagated by those politicians who pay lip service to the environment and the installation of Wind farms are the easy "enviro" solution. Building them is much better than not but there is too much ignorance about tidal power...