The main bulk of this entry will be the continued discourse from below-the-line in the previous entry, brought up here for easier reading. There is a LOT to take in. I hope the conversation provides a useful reference point for both fans and foes of wind power, both sides of the debate given a thorough airing. Enjoy!
Just a quick paragraph about the unbelievable scenes at Scammonden over the past few weeks, all captured on camera. The timeline is approximately as follows:
Mid October 2017: “Toxic Turbines In Kirklees” filmed from Scammonden Viaduct, focusing on Daisy Lea Farm, Marsden Gate and M62 turbines. Official complaint letter sent to Kirklees Council.
Late October 2017: Scammonden Viaduct turbine filmed with no blades. Unknown whether accidental damage or planned maintenance.
November 2017: easternmost of three Daisy Lea Farm turbines filmed undergoing maintenance.
Early January 2018: Marsden Gate gate filmed with no blades. Accidental damage.
Mid January 2018: middle Daisy Lea Farm turbine filmed with one blade missing. Unknown whether accidental damage or planned maintenance. Scammonden Viaduct turbine blades reinstated and spinning rapidly. Outer Daisy Lea Farm and M62 turbines totally stationary.
Giving this scenario the best possible “spin”, only one of the turbines has been proven to be faulty. Two others have been filmed without blades, but it’s possible this was planned maintenance. A fourth was filmed undergoing maintenance, unknown whether routine or a break-fix. I can’t explain how come one turbine was filmed spinning rapidly whilst all the others were stationary, unless they were switched off for some reason. It certainly didn’t seem very windy.
The worst possible spin: between them, the turbines at Scammonden take it in turns to malfunction, with a new fault developing pretty much every other week. This reduces the output of the turbines and increases their carbon footprint. Is this disruption monitored and measured?
Just before handing over to the debate, there’s been a few items in my newsfeed over the last few days. First up, none of than Jeremy Corbyn’s big brother Piers has tweeted the following: “‘Scotland Set 2 Be 100% Renewable in 2Yrs’ LOL this is TOTAL DELUSION! FACT: If was 100% – &c powered thousands would have died this by –. –––-backed-”
Wonder if Jeremy agrees or not. To be fair, I once met the brother of an eminent female MP at a dinner, and he seemed to think his sister was totally bonkers, so it’s entirely plausible that Jeremy disagrees with his brother’s views. Equally, however, it’s possible that deep down Jeremy feels the same way. Let’s not forget that Piers enthusiastically backs “JC 4 PM”, which strongly implies that Piers believes Jeremy would shift away from what he considers the “mentally defective” “delusion” of “fakegreen”, “fakescience”, 100% renewable energy.
It’s also been gratifying to learn that hundreds of people I’ve never met, who reside thousands of miles away from me on the other side of the ocean and have presumably not read a single word I’ve written, just happen to perceive wind energy projects exactly the same way I do!
Right, over to the discourse. If you remember, I was being challenged (finally!) by someone prepared to step up and make the case for wind power, or at least to set straight some of the factual inaccuracies I might have thrown at the industry. I apologise to anyone I might have misrepresented, but as I have explained throughout the blog, indeed in its very tagline “Monitoring The Impact Of Wind Turbines On Mental Health”, any irrationality on my part is blamed entirely upon the turbines! My thesis has been that the turbines affect my mental health by triggering an amygdala hijack, in which my brain is flooded with “fight or flight” chemicals. The fight response is reflected in the aggressively defensive rhetoric, aimed at getting the wind companies to back off, and for neutrals to spring to my defence.
Keeping mental health in good shape means critically thinking about our kneejerk instinctive reactions, and applying logic to put the perceived threat into some kind of perspective. As the higher thinking starts to sink in, the immediate threat subsides and more considered solutions can be implemented.
In my case, the government’s current bias against onshore wind power has mercifully provided me with some time to stop, think and consider the threat I have just experienced. How different things seem from just three short years ago, when I embarked on my “Crook Hill Eco Disaster” blog in a radically different political climate; an era that seems almost antediluvian now in its across-the-board support for seemingly unlimited wind farms. But, halfway through the construction of Crook Hill Wind Farm, I was there to witness and chronicle “The Week The Wind Changed”.
Now the immediate threat of any more unwanted wind farms encroaching upon the Peak and the South Pennines has receded (temporarily at least), I have felt less under attack and more able to dispassionately look at what just happened to me and my sense of well-being. I cannot stress enough just how profoundly my personal sense of equilibrium was knocked out of kilter by the South Pennines wind farms. The blog is a testament to that. The dialectic you are about to read is all a vital part of working towards a solution.
Let’s crack on then, with Phil H on hand to provide balance, and to put into perspective some of my more paranoid reactions triggered by the wind turbines. Any allegations against wind energy he has not been able to answer or debunk remain valid objections worthy of further investigation. There’s significantly fewer of these than when we started, but there are still a few questions that remain unanswered!
Maybe you, dear readers, might have some suggestions of your own. Feel free to join in the chat!
This of course is the entire raison d’etre of wind farms, to contribute to lower CO2 emissions.
Well, for me, their purpose is being a way of generating electricity long-term, when there is no longer enough burnable stuff to power our country. That they produce much less CO2 than burning fossil fuels is just a side benefit.
Do we have any quantifiable evidence yet of how much less CO2 we are now emitting as a result of wind energy?
The UK’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions have fallen about 43% from the 1990 base-line year to 2017. This includes things other than CO2, but CO2 reduction is by far the largest component. The growth in wind power and other renewables is a significant part of the CO2 reduction. How much CO2 has been saved depends on what you think the alternative would have been in a parallel version of UK where things were done differently:
* If we had built and used more low-carbon generation (solar, hydro, nuclear) instead, then the wind energy would have made little difference.
* If we had run our gas-fired power stations more instead, then last year’s 37 TWh [my estimate] of onshore wind energy saved over 15 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2.
* If we had run our coal-fired power stations more instead, then it saved over 30 Mt of CO2.
(For comparison, the UK’s total GHG emissions was about 450 Mt of CO2 equivalent. Offshore wind was about ¾ that of onshore, in addition. So if our onshore & offshore wind had been replaced by coal, our total GHG emissions would have been about 10% higher last year.)
The word in the context of energy systems means ‘is usable very long-term / indefinitely’. You’re seeming to use it to mean more like ‘constant’?
What changes were made in 2015.As you can see from the tables athttps://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/fit/fit-tariff-ratesin mid-Jan 2016, the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) for turbines of 100 – 500 kW was halved. I think this is just the size range made by Endurance, and that thus the financial cases for their potential customers were slashed at a stroke, and with only six months warning, so that many orders would have been postponed or cancelled.
Virtually all energy has received and continues to receive various subsidies, directly and indirectly. Nuclear energy took vast amounts of governments’ money to develop over decades – I can’t quantify how much, as I doubt anyone has kept a tally. But it’s reasonable that governments invest in developing such a new means of energy production, as it has the potential of being of huge long-term benefit to the country and all its citizens. Similarly for renewable energies, where the development has been mostly done by companies and individuals, but supported through subsidy payments, rather than the government doing the work directly. The Renewable Obligation, FiT and CfD schemes were started with the intention of reducing the subsidies over the years, as the renewable technologies benefited from economies of scale and their learning curves. That the industries are now talking about unsubsidised solar farms, onshore wind farms, and now even offshore wind farms, shows that the plan is working, no thanks to the sharp & sudden changes in the support schemes by the government. Contrast this with nuclear, where despite all the money spent on it over the decades, electricity from the next generation is still set to cost twice its wholesale value.
…wind farms were owned and operated by the public sector.
This would have the advantage of much lower costs for borrowing the money to build them, improving their economic case, so resulting in more onshore wind being economically viable.
Corporate Not Community … Control.
There are cooperative groups that propose and build wind turbines, and other renewables, usually based on mostly local membership, so that such facilities are thus owned by and financially benefit the community in which they’re located. Would you feel differently about the visual intrusion and harm to the land caused by a given wind turbine if you knew it was owned thus, compared with if you knew it was owned by a foreign multinational energy corporation?
is it morally right that a private company receives subsidies from the government?If they’re doing what the government and society want, and would not do so otherwise, why should they not be rewarded reasonably?
At what point should a product stand on its own two feet without the need of assistance?A good question. Compare and contrast renewables and nuclear (see above).
The difference from onshore wind farms is that the M6(Toll) was proposed and designed by the government, which then got a company to finance, build & operate it. Onshore wind farms are proposed from the start by companies, and the authorities just react to the proposals. (Offshore wind farms are somewhere between the two.)[Aside: I get the impression from the news, that the M6(Toll) has not lived up to traffic forecasts and is presumably losing the company money – so companies may be more hesitant about building public roads in the future.]
Confusing Use Of Statistics.
I don’t know how the carbon figure was arrived at. Do they mean carbon or carbon dioxide?Good questions. Let’s check their figures, starting with the homes equivalence, as you correctly did: 7,500 kW * 24*365*0.25 = 16,425,000 kWh/yr. At about 4,000 kWh/yr per home, that’s about 4,000 homes. Check!
If 16,425,000 kWh save 8,475 tonnes, that’s about 530 g of CO2 per kWh – burning gas releases about 400 g(CO2)/kWh and coal about 800 g(CO2)/kWh, so being within that range the 530 figure seems about right. More accurately, it implies that each kWh of wind energy displaces ¾ kWh of gas-derived electricity and ¼ kWh of coal-derived, which is roughly the ratio actually used in the UK in 2016. Check!
Confusingly, weights of both carbon and carbon dioxide are used for carbon dioxide pollution; they differ by a factor of 3.7. We can see that their calculation must be referring to carbon dioxide, but the quote uses the term ‘carbon’.
(1) CO2 emissions. No reason to challenge any of your sums here. I think the question is therefore, would other forms of energy generation contribute more efficiently to lower CO2 emissions? What is the opportunity cost of relying so much on wind at the expense of R&D or investment into other forms of renewable energy? How long do you estimate it takes wind farms to pay back their own carbon footprint? Do we keep track of all their construction and maintenance carbon emissions, factoring the “cost” of wind farms into our calculations. And, as always, are the figures independently and objectively audited, to ensure that every wind farm is operating sufficiently? If it could be proven that a wind farm had really not contributed to lower CO2 emissions, especially if failing to meet its claims, do you agree that it should be penalised for false advertising?
(Would punishing or even getting rid of the bad wind farms in fact help the good ones? A bit of pruning and rationalising of the wind farm network, like the Beeching rail cuts?)
(2) My definition of “sustainable” is the Oxford dictionary definition (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sustainable): “Able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”. It does the wind companies no favours to redefine words, because those of us who are sticklers for semantics will only pick holes and lose trust in any use of words that seems misleading or distorting somehow. I think “sustainable” is entirely the wrong word to describe wind energy, due to its ups and downs, and as such I class this usage as another example of “greenwashing”. It’s not my major issue with wind power, but it’s another way in which the industry’s reputation for slippery untrustworthiness could be improved: stop playing with words and misusing the English language!!! I prefer the term “intermittent” as a more accurate description of how wind energy works.
(3) Feed-in Tariffs. Please don’t feel under any pressure to reply Phil, as you can see I am truly grateful for your contributions and am making every effort to give your words high billing so people can read them for themselves. But if you don’t mind elaborating, it might be helpful to explain to people exactly how these tariffs work. Am I right in thinking they are basically payments from public funds to those who generate electricity from renwewables? Why should members of the public be bothered by a tightening of the public purse? Couldn’t the money saved from halving FiTs be better spent on the NHS or Disability Benefits?
(4) Subsidies. At the 2015 General Election, the two largest political parties had different policies regarding wind power subsidies, and the party that wanted to bring them down won, with the party that wanted to keep them high losing. Why do you think that was? Ditto, in America, the more anti-wind of the two parties won decisively (not even getting into a Trump conversation here…I’m more interested in the psephology). Subsidies for wind farms are NOT an election winner. Why do you think that is?
I for one think the overload of wind farms has meant people have lost sympathy or support for subsidising them any further. The term “subsidy junkies” is often used to describe people who set up wind farm businesses based on the very model of government support funding them rather than what I would deem “an honest profit”, like the company I work for. Satisfied customers voluntarily choose to buy our products, with no support from public money required. the idea of wind companies being “subsidy junkies” might just be public perception, but it’s a perception based on multiple examples of wind companies appealing and appealing until they get their way, riding roughshod over local concerns.
I’m personally not in favour of my tax money being used to fund wind energy companies.
(5) “Corporate Not Community … Control”
Would I feel better about wind farms being community-owned? Yes I would. 500% better. Because then I’d know that the wind farm was integrated into the local community, at its request and with its consent. I think there’d be better aesthetics and ethics associated with community wind farms, less divisiveness and more attention to the environmental impacts on the neighbourhood.
(6) “Is it morally right that a private company receives subsidies from the government?
If they’re doing what the government and society want, and would not do so otherwise, why should they not be rewarded reasonably?”
I put it to you that they have not been doing what the government and society want, hence the cut in subsidies. Why would the government cut the subsidies were the wind companies providing a service they wanted? Therefore we need to look at where the wind companies have gone off track and understand how come they’ve lost the support of the government.
(7) M6(Toll) – now this is interesting. Maybe we’ve just stumbled across a key difference. You said: “M6(Toll) was proposed and designed by the government, which then got a company to finance, build & operate it. Onshore wind farms are proposed from the start by companies, and the authorities just react to the proposals.”
The problem is that companies will propose as many wind farms as possible to maximise profit. Left unchecked, companies could feasibly apply to build wind farms on every hill and mountain in the UK. Why not? Each hill is another opportunity to make profit! It’s not that I’m anticorporate, it’s precisely because I understand the corporate mindet (expand or die) that I’m so aware of what heppens if corporations are underregulated. By allowing corporations to tout for as many wind farms as they can possibly get away with, we have inevitably allowed some superfluous ones to slip through the net (even David Cameron acknowledged the public had become “fed up” with wind farms).
There’s also no increased standards through competition if a company gets to call the shots, and even choose its own planning advisors to provide the EIA reports – which is what happened at the Scout Moor expansion!). Whereas if each local authority had been assigned with the task of selecting a wind farm site and asking operators to tend for the contract, this would increase the incentive for wind operators to do a better job in making their schemes acceptable, instead of applying for a contract with no competition (other than from us proud NIMBYs!) and then having carte blanche to run amok as they see fit.
(8) Carbon / carbon dioxide
Another example of playing with words, or using confusing terminology. Yet again we can say “no harm intended”, but surely you can see by now, almost every claim made by a wind operator, whilst maybe not proveably deceitful, is still ambiguous and confusing to the general public.
Over the last 5 years, the UK government has commissioned a series of professionally-conducted surveys of the general public’s view of various energy sources (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/656795/Wave_23_Excel_tables.xlsx – Q3, Q13 & Q12), which have consistently shown support:opposition for renewables in general at about 80%:4%, and for onshore wind specifically at about 65%:6%. Only about 1½% of people strongly oppose onshore wind. Even, those who would be happy:unhappy to have a large-scale renewable energy development in their area are about 57%:17%, ie far more YIMBYs than NIMBYs. Compared with the 52%:48% majority in the Brexit referendum, I’d call this level of support ‘overwhelming’.
That definition makes more sense applied to physiology, than renewables’ output (what fraction of the maximum output is one wanting to sustain?). In the much-larger world of environmentalism (not just wind power), that this topic is part of, ‘sustainable’ has long meant ‘being based on non-depleting resources’. Can we agree to use ‘intermittent’ and ‘non-depleting’ instead, to avoid misunderstandings? (It’s a bit like ‘hacker’ has opposite meanings for computer scientists and the general media.)
(2) would other forms of energy generation contribute more efficiently to lower CO2 emissions?
‘Efficiently’ could have 2 meanings here: financially, ie cost; and physical resources expended. New onshore wind turbines are the cheapest form of new low-carbon non-depleting generation in the UK. They have a CO2 payback of typically a couple of years, and a lifetime of a couple of decades; you’ll have to research online the figures for other generation for comparison, as I don’t have a ready reference. There have been various independent academic studies of CO2 and other forms of payback – their results vary somewhat according to the assumptions used, some of which might be considered to be biased in favour of one form of generation or another, so take the average of several studies. As I explained before, there’s no independent tracking of the performance of individual turbines or farms, and the penalty for getting things wrong is losing their money. So I would guess that proposers would err on the side of underestimating output.
(3) Feed-in Tariffs.
FiTs are effectively top-up payments to owners of small-scale renewable energy installations, from which the value of electricity generated would not be enough to justify their capital cost, to encourage people to install them nevertheless, to kick-start the industries making and installing the equipment, with the intention that with the increasing size of the industries, economies of scale and experience will reduce the costs over time, allowing the FiT rates to be steadily reduced to zero over time (the scheme runs from 2010 to 2019). The money for the FiTs comes from electricity bills, rather than out of general or specific taxation.
As far as I can tell, the FiT scheme for small-scale wind, solar and other renewables together now costs around £1000m/yr, which is less than £20 per household with a matching contribution from non-domestic consumers. Of course this money could have been spent on the NHS, as could any other sum of money you can point to in the economy, such as the £1600m/yr spent on facial cosmetics, for example. But why should there be a choice? Each use of money should be decided on its merits. The FiTs help create a clean energy future, where the reduced air pollution from the reduced burning of stuff helps improve general health, lessening the burden on the NHS and the need to pay Disability Benefits, as well as reducing our energy imports.
2015 General Election…bring them down won.
I’d say it was a factor for less than 1% of voters, and they would be Conservative voters already. I’d bet there were more voters exercised by bringing back fox-hunting or grammar schools than cared significantly about renewable subsidies.
in America, the more anti-wind of the two parties won decisively.
Ironically, most wind power in the US is in the mid-west, esp Texas, which is mostly Republican territory, which is why the federal tax support for wind (and solar) ended up being untouched in the two budgets since Trump’s election.
Subsidies for wind farms are NOT an election winner.
Given the overwhelming public support in the UK for renewables generally and onshore wind in particular, discussed above, the only way I find that a believable proposition is in the sense that most voters don’t care about the topic enough to translate their support for wind power into their voting.
‘subsidy junkies’…businesses based on…government support funding.
What do you think of the subsidy dependence of nuclear power then, which should be a mature technology after more than half a century and uncounted billions of subsidies already? Hinkley Point C is only going ahead because the UK government has promised that British electricity bill payers will pay EDF, a company owned by a foreign government, a larger subsidy than is to be paid to offshore wind farms built in the same timeframe, even though offshore wind is only 15yr old.
I’m personally not in favour of my tax…fund wind energy companies.
It comes from your electricity bill, so you might like to minimise this, by improving your energy efficiency, eg by fitting LED bulbs, etc, and fitting solar panels to your roof to reduce the amount of electricity you need to buy in. You’re unlikely to live in a home that would benefit from installing a micro wind turbine [grin].
(5) Corporate Not Community … Control
Would I feel better about wind farms being community-owned? … 500% better.
[starts grinning again] Great. Here’s a suggestion for your next road-trip holiday:
* Duckmanton, near Chesterfield – a 500 kW EWT turbine on former colliery land, owned by Four Winds Energy Cooperative
* Shafton, near Barnsley – another 500 kW EWT turbine on former colliery land, also owned by Four Winds Energy Cooperative
* Haverigg, near Millom, Cumbria – a 600 kW Wind World turbine on a disused airfield, owned by Baywind Energy Co-operative; this is an early modern turbine, and the first in the UK to be owned cooperatively
* Harlock Hill, Cumbria – a pair of large, 2.3 MW Enercon E70 turbines, erected just last year (ie, receiving low FiT rates) on a site previously used as a community wind farm, by High Winds Community Energy Co-operative
* Watchfield, near Swindon, Wilts – five Siemens turbines owned by The Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative since 2008; now has a co-located community-owned solar farm
* Kellybank, Wemyss Bay, Scotland – a pair of 100 kW Norvento nED100 turbines, owned by Small Wind Co-operative
* Troed y Bryn, Ceredigion – a 180 kW Vestas V27 turbine, also owned by Small Wind Co-operative
and others owned by Dingwall Wind Co-operative (in Dingwall, Scotland), Wester Derry Wind Co-operative (in Angus, Scotland), Heartland Community Wind (in Aberfeldy, Scotland), Fetlar Community Wind (in Shetland) and many more.
(6) I put it to you that they have not been doing what the government and society want.
See series of surveys discussed above which shows they have.
Why would the government cut the subsidies were the wind companies providing a service they wanted?
In the early years of this decade, the government set an arbitrary limit on the total subsidies for renewables, but the renewables industries were more successful more quickly than expected, such that the total support scheme costs threatened to breach the limit. The government chose to reduce the support rates faster and less smoothly than intended, rather than raise the limit.
David Cameron acknowledged the public had become ‘fed up’ with wind farms.
The above-discussed series of surveys show that the level of general-public support for onshore wind has not fallen in the last five years that it has been polled, and remains overwhelming.
This level of general-public support is the ‘social licence’ that could be used to justify wind power and other renewables and their support schemes, and why I think you have a lot of persuading to do to change the situation. And is why I suggest that you need to develop a compelling vision of a better alternative as part of that persuasion campaign.
Oops: my part of the paragraph starting ‘subsidy junkies’ should not have been in italics.
The flaw with the opinion poll is that it doesn’t show how support for wind farms drops the nearer you get to them, so sure, lots of metropolitan respondents who never seem them day-to-day will no doubt say they approve of “clean, green energy”, But as you get nearer you find levels of protest rise. So I would say more people like the abstract concept of wind turbines rather than the reality of living near them..
I would also say that the polls don’t show the intensity of feeling, so maybe more people only casually, half-heartedly like the idea of wind power (or tell an interviewer that they do), but those who oppose specific turbine developments will have much stronger, deeper feelings, and will be more committed and motivated to pursue their case in real life, not just in an opinion poll. OK, there are a few committed pro-wind campaigners, but looking at the wind farms near me that have aroused my interest in the topic – the real strength of feeling is always more anti than pro. This is absolutely the case with the Scout Moor expansion, Rooley Moor (rejected), Gorpley (rejected), Todmorden, Crook HIll, Carsington Pastures, Knabbs Ridge and Hook Moor wind farms. It’s also the case in every other wind farm proposal where the council has rejected the scheme only for it to be overturned.
Bear in mind it only takes a single Planning Inspector to overrule a rejection and allow a wind farm, whereas councils have to vote as a group. (You’ll maybe notice I left Ovenden Moor out of the above list, even though I personally hate the place, I do not deny that Calderdale Council approved it, and therefore at least a group of local representatives sat down and came to the joint decision to approve it. To me, there’s a difference there. Local people have decided they feel it’s best for their community. Although I disagree, I respect the process that led to this decision.
You have provided so much great factual evidence of good things about wind turbines Phil. which is fantastic, but you’ve still not come up with a definitive explanation for what it is about wind turbines that has such a negative impact on my mood (and clearly many other people’s, see this photo from today’s news-feed:)?
In some people, wind turbines trigger a very strongly negative physiological and psychological reaction. They de-energise us and makes us feel unhealthy and adversely affected by their presence. People calling us NIMBYs or insulting us (not you, for which I’m truly grateful…at least you seem interested to engage and understand!) is merely simplistic name-calling and victim-blaming, and doesn’t actually begin to address the nature of so many people’s bad reactions to them.
Nothing sticks in the craw more than when someone who’s never even heard of a “nacelle” glibly writes off our concerns or calls us stupid or narrow-minded simply for expressing that wind turbines adversely affect our mental state. People have every right to disagree with our opinions, sure, but they are factually wrong if they think our opinions haven’t been thought-through, or we are making things up, or if they don’t acknowledge the hours and hours of research and study most anti-wind campaigners have carried out to understand what on earth is going on. Our feelings of discomfort are not merely “back of a fag packet” prejudices, they run much deeper and are much more substantial, even if not always logically sound in how they are expressed (hence the need for dialectic, to systematically work through the points made, one by one, to see which ones hold water).
If wind turbines are as good as you make them sound – and by God, you do make a GREAT case for them! – then what do you think it it is about them that has such a strong negative impact on so many people, consistently, nay SUSTAINABLY, with every scheme proposed, and all across the world?
It’s good to rule out the factual untruths from my diagnosis of the problem, but the fact remains that for many, many of us we get a very bad physiological reaction from wind turbines and SOMETHING must be causing it. Bear in mind of the millions of words I’ve written in this blog, not to mention all the other anti-wind blogs such as Stop These Things and Mothers Against Wind Turbines. I’m not being paid a penny so have no ulterior motive other than to log this worldwide issue that I too suffer from, and to try to resolve it. The issue being: “when we encounter wind turbines, it negatively affects our mental health and well-being. WHY????”
Knowing that it does, shouldn’t we research what could be causing this reaction? Wouldn’t that be in the wind developers’ best interests? To understand what causes opposition to their schemes and to work to improve the product so that fewer people have reason to complain? Why is it that wind power seems to be getting ever more unpopular, not more popular?
A VOTE WINNER?
I’ve addressed this in the blog. I don’t think consciously many people would shout “wind turbines!” as their number one political issue, but I think subconsciously and as part of a wider cultural interpretation, wind turbines do tend to represent in many people’s minds the EU (maybe because of EU climate change directives), or in Scotland the SNP. Why did the Scottish Tories do so well, especially in Southern Scotland? “Because the SNP don’t listen” is an answer you find frequently. The SNP has also plastered loads and loads of unpopular turbines across Southern Scotland (see my entry for some real-life comments from Scottish residents). Here in the Pennines, there are a few noteable islands of blue surrounded by the red urban areas. Areas like Calderdale and Rossendale that also host the wind farms.
I’m not claiming causality, that the wind farms directly change how people vote. What I am claiming is some kind of correlation – those parties that win General Elections seem to be those that are the least gung-ho about wind power.
“Given the overwhelming public support in the UK for renewables generally and onshore wind in particular, discussed above, the only way I find that a believable proposition is in the sense that most voters don’t care about the topic enough to translate their support for wind power into their voting.”
Sorry Phil, I think this is the first time in all your posts that you’ve said something I find factually debatable. I simply do not see any tangible evidence at all of support for onshore wind in Britain, far from it, other than in very vague, low-intensity, abstract opinion polls on the internet, not in terms of large, populist, pro-wind support movements within local communities. In fact I see the opposite (David Cameron’s quote…) The reality is that the government has effectively banned onshore wind farms in England. Unless they were ideologically opposed to wind power, why would they risk alienating so many voters by pulling the plug on something they want, like and need?
Having disagreed with you above, I 100% agree about the need, and responsibility for each of us, to minimise our electricity usage and bring the total amount we use down as much as possible. The danger with relying on wind farms, and maybe why they have the level of popularity you claim they do, is that it’s quite an easy way of virtue-signalling without fundamentally addressing the root of the problem. “Oh it’s OK, I can leave my lights on all day, it’s fine, I support wind turbines and their clean, green energy, so I’ve done my bit, I can get on with my life…” I exaggerate for effect but hopefully you get the point. The danger is we simply carry on with our wasteful, consumerist lifestyles, albeit releasing less CO2 into the air, but losing our natural spaces in the process. Not the world I want to live in! I want to protect the uplands for future generations. Nature is more important than electricity in the long run. Obviously we live in the real world, I’m typing on a computer…but all in all I think energy efficiency is something I totally agree we should all be striving to achieve.
“and why I think you have a lot of persuading to do to change the situation”.
With respect, bearing in mind I have more or less got the policy I want from the government now, who do I need to persuade that we don’t need any new wind farms in the UK? The SNP maybe, and clearly the Green Party. I don’t even expect the Greens to drop their support for wind power, but at least a glimmer of emotional reaction to the degradation of our upland landscapes would be a start!
I do need to persuade people to closely monitor the turbines we have, to ensure they comply with their claims and that they don’t hurt anyone. But if anyone needs to persuade anyone of anything, right now I’d say it’s the wind developers who have to persuade the government and the public of the need for their product, because right now, in England at least, people aren’t buying it any more. They could do with more like you Phil, and less like Vickram Mirchandani of Coronation Power, who was run out of town by the locals!
“And is why I suggest that you need to develop a compelling vision of a better alternative as part of that persuasion campaign.”
Not necessarily, there is a role in society for purely exposing the flaws in a product, as long as the public balance the negatives with equal and opposing positives (hence me promoting your comments here, to provide that balance). My role so far has been as a journalist and blogger, highlighting the negative impacts wind turbines have had on my own sense of well-being, along with several other people who feel exactly the same. Simply giving more voice to these people’s feelings is a socially good thing to do, I feel. Now, were I a politician or someone who works in the industry, I may indeed go forward with more positive solutions and compelling visions.
Here’s the best I can do though Phil. Here’s 10 wind farms. How could we rank them? If I asked you to rate the value of each of these and to rank them from best to worst, how would you go about evaluating them?
CROOK HILL, SCOUT MOOR, REAPS MOSS, HYNDBURN, TODMORDEN, COAL CLOUGH, OVENDEN MOOR, KNABBS RIDGE, HOOK MOOR, ROYD MOOR
Whatever criteria we judge them on, my goal is the improvement of the bottom five wind farms on the list, with a Service Level Agreement of what we expect to be a satisfactory performance. Should they underperform, they should have the option of remedial action, or alternatively they should be decommissioned. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: get rid of the bad apples and that will improve people’s perceptions of the good ones.
In a way, the “compelling vision” thing might be part of the problem – because in reality things very rarely live up to the hype. True believers in a vision tend to be prone to confirmation bias in which they filter out data that contradicts that vision, We do need believers to innovate and invent, sure, but we also need sceptics and critics to ensure compliance and to drive innovation and product development by highlighting areas in need of improvement.
If I do have a vision it’s probably, deep down, the same as yours. A clean, green environment to live in. The debate isn’t about whether this is a valid vision, it’s about monitoring the real-life implementation of the vision and providing useful feedback about any issues encountered.
(From an IT point of view…, we don’t expect praise or compelling visions about the perfect IT network. We just expect feedback when there’s a real-life issue, which we try to resolve and add details to our Knowledge Base. My job in IT is as a troubleshooter rather than a visionary, and I’ve only ever seen problems when people come in with bright ideas that don’t stand up to real-life practice (my five years in the NHS showed me this happen over and over again,.., compelling visions that ultimately cause more harm than good!).
In the case of clean, green energy, I fully accept the vision, I just call attention to when real-life experience doesn’t match up to it!
Now, that said, I do have compelling visions about our interactions with the “countryside” (an interesting term worthy of a whole essay….what exactly “is” the countryside?) As I have said in the blog, the National Parks and the Green Belts are the political crystallisations of that vision, so as a troubleshooter my role is to log and resolve any issues that affect the integrity of our National Parks and Green Belts.
I therefore have the compelling vision of encouraging more research into what it is about wind turbines that impacts on our National Parks and Green Belts (I wouldn’t have been as bothered had their impacts not encroached upon the Peak District, not because it’s “MY” back yard, but because it’s everyone’s!!!!).
I have the compelling vision of removing any reported cases of turbine torture from people’s lives and restoring the quality of life to its pre-turbine state for everyone whose neighbourhood has become blighted and unpleasant.
I didn’t draw this cartoon, I’ve absolutely no idea who did and what triggered it. But someone did. Showcasing their art is part of my compelling vision – alerting the world to the fact that people are being hurt by these things and are struggling to have their voices heard.
Above all, my compelling vision is of a world where the tops of hills and mountains, and the pockets of open countryside between towns, are places to energise humans, free, beautiful and wild, open and accessible to everyone, monopolised by no-one. A world where the most honest and clear expression of Green values is one where as a society ensure we keep our countryside GREEN!
By the way, why on earth are wind turbines painted high-visibility white paint? What is the environmental benefit of this paint? Wouldn’t they have less harmful impact if the garish white paint was removed? Even getting this paint removed would be a small but significant improvement! These are the sort of workable tweaks that I think I can bring to the wind industry, small incremental changes that would all improve the end-user experience.
Some links from today’s news feed:
In The Shadow Of Wind Farms:
Petition: Stop The Production Tax Credit For Industrial Wind:
Turbine Failure (Germany):
Turbine Failure (France):
Deforestation In Scotland To Make Way For Wind Farms:
The Public Attitudes Tracker (PAT) series of surveys are conducted by an independent, professional polling company, commissioned by the UK government, from samples of over 2000 people selected at random by postcode, and interviewed in person. 2000 respondents gives a standard deviation accuracy of +/-2%, which is significantly more accurate than the typical political poll run by newspapers. This is precisely why I would put so much more reliance on it than, say, the set of commenters on your Scottish posting, who are a small, self-selected group found over the internet.
But as you get nearer you find levels of protest rise
There’s less protest if the turbine(s) is to be community-owned. So some of the protest is to do with the ownership and perception of ownership, rather than the turbine(s) per se.
the polls don’t show the intensity of feeling
The PAT surveys do – I’m trying to keep my comments brief, or it’ll become more my blog than yours. These are the approximate figures eyeball-averaged over the 5 yr of the surveys (2012-17). None of the categories shows a statistically significant trend over that time.
20% strongly support
22% neither support nor oppose, and don’t knows
3% strongly oppose
[My apologies for having misread the last category as 1½% previously.]
when we encounter wind turbines, it negatively affects our…
They don’t phase me, nor any of my family or friends, including those that live in rural northeast Wales amidst a number of turbines of various sizes scattered over the surrounding landscape. Indeed from the window of the B&B’s room that we usually stay in when visiting, there’s a picturesque view of a lone turbine on a hill in the near distance, Teletubby-like, which I like watching, and prefer that room for that reason.
Why is it that wind power seems to be getting ever more unpopular
The consistency of the PAT surveys over the years shows that the ‘opposed’ & ‘strongly opposed’ percentages have been stable with time. If you’re encountering increasing numbers of strongly anti-wind people, it must be because you’re encountering more members of that 3%, or they are becoming more active & vocal.
I simply do not see any tangible evidence at all of support for onshore wind
You could invest the minimum amount in the next wind-energy coop to be set up, and go to its AGMs and meet some of the hundreds of its members who believe in onshore wind enough to take part in building more of it and risking their money to do so. Of course they are making money from their investments, but they could make more, and probably with less risk, by investing in Shell or BP shares; and often/usually they will be giving up some of the money they could make to fund programs of local benefit. You might even be able to attend, as an observer, the AGMs of existing wind-energy coops – the nearest one to you is probably Four Winds. There are dozens of wind-energy coops in the UK, typically with a couple of hundred members each, that have been set up in recent years, so that’s growing numbers, in the thousands, of people who strongly support onshore wind without making their presence felt in public.
why on earth are wind turbines painted high-visibility white paint?
I don’t know. Many German ones are painted green at the base fading into white higher up, as are Ecotricity’s 2 turbines at Swaffham, Norfolk, which seems a reasonable compromise. White would be more visible to aircraft for daytime safety, though you identified one application for a grey-painted one.
rank them in order of most useful to least useful
Some combination of their capacity and capacity factor, preferably calculated before construction. With bonus points for being sited in a previously-developed area, and for being built on a site where the power’s to be used. Once built, it would be a waste of the expended resources to remove a still-functioning turbine.
Nature is more important than electricity in the long run.
If you’re seriously suggesting that the British population should put up with power cuts, and consequent freezing in the dark, in order to preserve British moorland landscapes, then you’re by far the deepest green person I’ve ever encountered.
who do I need to persuade that we don’t need any new wind farms in the UK?
Whoever you’re aiming this blog at? As well as expounding your personal reasons, you’ve also tried to corral some objective objections to wind power: some hoary old anti-renewable myths, and some interesting new lines of argument of your own. I’ve tried to show there’s little in these objective objections [thank you for allowing me the extended opportunity to do this, by the way]. But if you’d still like to bolster your personal reasons with objective line(s) of argument, if only as something of more interest for your readers, then I’m suggesting what I see as the most promising way to go. But it is, of course, your blog.
Simply giving more voice to these people’s feelings is a socially good thing to do
Sure. But I got the impression you wanted to change things as well, with this blog and in other ways.
you do make a GREAT case for them
I’ve not been trying to promote onshore wind, rather to explain why I think it’s the least-expensive, but second-worst, option for coping with the inevitable, and thus why there’s likely to be substantially more of it.
(1) Wind turbines affect some people, not others
I realise they don’t affect everyone, but they do affect some people drastically, this is undeniable. I’ve linked to dozens if not hundreds of articles by people who perceive wind turbines to have a negative impact on them. It’s unrealistic to deny that there are several people negatively impacted by wind turbines, for whatever reason. I’m interested in looking into these reasons. If someone says “I am suffering” I believe them, in the same way that if someone at work says their computer is broken, I believe them! Now the root cause maybe not be what they think it is, or it may even be something they’re doing wrong (which would be someone else’s fault really, for not adequately training them). Ultimately though, we never ever blame the client for any negative impact the computer system has on them.
It is a scientific fact that lots of people really, really do not like wind farms (over 2,000 members from all around the world in one of the activist groups I’m part of). Do you have any possible explanations why we feel this way? I have lots, which I’ve thrown out there to be discussed. There are the obvious things such as degradation of the countryside, corporatisation of open access common land etc, but there are others which might or might not be accurate, and are definitely worthy of further study. Eg infrasonic sound, shadow flicker, seasickness, epilepsy, migraines…who knows? I’ve testified in an entry that I came close to vomiting next to Todmorden Wind Farm, and had I actually thrown up I would have photographed it as evidence!
It would be equally wrong for me to say they affect everybody as it would were you to say they affect nobody. As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle, with no simple Yes/No answer. SOME wind farms affect SOME people. So which turbines affect which people, in which way, and what could be the cause? If you look at my blog in the context of me trying to log and resolve this widespread issue which has affected me too, and persuading people of the strength of bad feelings wind turbines can cause being its original objective. Obviously as more people have read and engaged with my correspondence, I’ve reached out and taken the dialogue further. But it is a scientific fact that wind turbines negatively affect my mood and sense of well-being, with no prior bias against them, only in favour of them (right up until 2014). What do you think it is about wind turbines that drove me to post so many words, bearing in mind I have no hidden agenda of any sort, what you see is what you get. Why do you think I don’t like them? Why did that cartoonist draw them as instruments of Death? Why do so many of us hate them Phil? What do you think is the real reason we are affected negatively by wind turbines?
This is where YOU need a compelling vision Phil! Wind turbine advocates need to demonstrate real understanding of the adverse reactions to their products, and they need to come up with some solutions that reassure the opponents. You don’t do a bad job personally, but the industry itself needs to be more receptive to the fact that there are several people round the world who have a bad reaction to wind turbines. Even if they were to say, “Wind turbines have all these great qualities, but unfortunately they have these side effects on certain individuals.”, that’d be reality.
Once we’re all agreed on the fact that wind schemes are almost always opposed strongly by a sizeable and vocal contingent of the electorate, which I think the UK government is now, we can start looking into the issue of what’s upsetting them a bit more deeply. But whatever it is about wind turbines that triggers us, it is a real-life issue, I passed several on the road yesterday, with this blog in mind, and I still had the negative impact on passing them. Words and explanations don’t take away the physiological reaction I still have to these machines. they literally make me feel like my very life force is being sucked out of me, and I still don’t know why! I wish someone, somewhere would be able to explain it. All I can hope for at the moment is to be listened to and understood.
Let me break it down as simply as possible. Imagine two hills of equal height, prominence and topography. One gets a wind turbine stuck on top, the other doesn’t. Now those hills are no longer equal, so the first thing we can say about wind turbines is they increase inequality. The hill with the turbine on it has now been blighted, degraded and made less pleasant than the hill with no turbine, and I would no longer visit the hill with the turbine on it by choice. More than that, I would proactively try and avoid it.
This means the countryside has in the last couple of decades become divided between unblighted (positive quality) areas, which retain a high amenity value, and blighted (negative quality) areas, of little tourist, recreational or aesthetic value. The impact of wind turbines on a landscape is that they immediately and drastically pull the quality of the countryside down from “highly above average” to “deeply below average”. Kirklees is a case in point; degraded from “almost National Park” quality countryside to “industrialised toilet” in just a couple of dozen wind turbines. Residents of Kirklees, instead of having, say, a dozen hills to choose from to get their leisure, recreation, exercise and a general sense of health and well-being, might now find they only have five or six (the wide-ranging views of wind turbines having a negative impact on all adjacent hills).
Worst of all, if one lived in an area where there are only one or two undeveloped green spaces nearby, the erection of a single badly located turbine could literally remove all areas of unspoilt natural beauty from the entire district. The wind turbine at Jaytail Farm near Silsden is one such badly located turbine (thank you Brendan Lyons of the Planning Inspectorate, based down in Bristol, for knowing better than Bradford Council what’s good for the Green Belt around Keighley. Thank you for wrecking Ilkley Moor. The people of Yorkshire are really grateful to you!) The truth is, a vast area of countryside has been degraded by this single, intrusive and inappropriate turbine.
I mentioned ranking wind farms…we could also rank areas of countryside, on a number of criteria. The introduction of a wind farm into a landscape has a clear and mathematically proven impact on the desirability of that area, compared to an equivalent landscape with no wind turbines. To me this is a logical no-brainer, and even the Environmental Impact Assessments required as part of the planning process concede the impact of wind farms as “Negative”, or at best “Neutral”. I have literally never seen a single EIA that describes a wind farm as having a “Positive” impact on a landscape.
So it is very easy to calibrate the impact of a wind farm on a landscape, and to admit that the same landscape without a wind farm would score more highly than with it. Thus the problems occur when a local council, eg Derbyshire Dales, says the impact of Carsington Pastures wind farm, barely a mile from the edge of the Peak District, is unacceptable to them, but then a lone Planning Inspector like Mr Robin Brooks has the power to say, “Nonsense! People visiting the Peak will barely even notice it.” The weighting of Mr Brooks’ opinion over the Council’s decision is arbitary and unfair I feel, and it really does appear that this weighting has shifted back in favour of local communities. That makes sense to me, it seems pragmatic, logical and ethical.
When I look at the schemes I’ve been involved with, the support for the proposals is conspicuous by its absence in the community, Rooley Moor, Gorpley. Scout Moor expansion. Crook Hill. I could introduce you to dozens of people who have their own reasons for opposing these schemes. I’d barely be able to introduce to a single supporter of each. That’s just my real-life experience. (For example in a Residents’ Meeting at a crowded church hall in Rochdale, not even specifically about the wind farm proposal, when there was a show of hands amongst residents for who supported the Rooley Moor wind farm, not a single person raised their hands). Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale, even launched a “Not On Our Hills” petition against the Scout Moor expansion, which got 1,000 signatures. It was claimed by Jake that 97% of all respondents were negative towards Scout Moor expansion. Hook Moor near Leeds was rejected THREE TIMES before approval. Crook Hill was even opposed by the LibDem MP of the time Paul Rowan (the LibDems being incredibly pro-wind power as I’m sure you’re aware!).
I’m almost tempted to say: “Fine, go ahead and believe the opinion polls if you really want!” But because I respect you Phil and want your understanding of the world to be accurate, I will say this, don’t be complacent. Don’t think that just because a poll informed you people like wind farms, that’s a true and up-to-date reflection of reality and that won’t change, or hasn’t already. My real-life experiences lead me to believe the opposite. I think the wind industry is in denial if it doesn’t acknowledge the strength of opposition against wind farms, and as I want the industry transformed, or at least the bad apples removed, I don’t mind personally if wind companies react too slowly to the increasing opposition that will only do them harm if they fail to acknowledge it. I believe that 100%. Industries and businesses go belly-up when they ignore customer feedback and continue to think they’re more popular than they really are.
(2) Ranking Wind Farms
“Some combination of their capacity and capacity factor, preferably calculated before construction. With bonus points for being sited in a previously-developed area, and for being built on a site where the power’s to be used. Once built, it would be a waste of the expended resources to remove a still-functioning turbine.”
Yes good points. I’d also get feedback from the community. How has it affected you? If opinion polls are to be used as an indicator of popularity, then let’s get some opinion polls done on a more local basis. It’s not that polls are untrustworthy, it’s just down to the questions and methodology used. Asking random people what they think of something abstract will throw up different results from asking a specific community what it thinks of a specific project. Any wind farms that are outstandingly unpopular, or have very bad capacity factors, would need remedial action.
(3) Nature is more important than electricity in the long run.
“If you’re seriously suggesting that the British population should put up with power cuts, and consequent freezing in the dark, in order to preserve British moorland landscapes, then you’re by far the deepest green person I’ve ever encountered.”
I feel the moorlands are the very last places I want to see transformed into places of power generation. It should be done as minimally and sparingly as possible, literally as few wind farms as we can possibly get by with. I think we’ve already hit upon the root of the problem here, the old system in which the whole of England was basically a free-for-all for prospective wind developers to tout their wares, then the communities would say no, only for the Planning Inspectors overturn them. I’d rather see local communities draw up areas where wind development is acceptable to them, preferably as small areas as possible, and then say no to everywhere else. Again, method and implementation has been the problem. The sheer volume of successful planning appeals says there has been a mismatch between what local councils want and what the planners have wanted. This has changed though, in my direction! So I’m reasonably happy now.
(4) Debunking Anti-Renewables Myths
“who do I need to persuade that we don’t need any new wind farms in the UK?
Whoever you’re aiming this blog at? As well as expounding your personal reasons, you’ve also tried to corral some objective objections to wind power: some hoary old anti-renewable myths, and some interesting new lines of argument of your own. I’ve tried to show there’s little in these objective objections [thank you for allowing me the extended opportunity to do this, by the way]. But if you’d still like to bolster your personal reasons with objective line(s) of argument, if only as something of more interest for your readers, then I’m suggesting what I see as the most promising way to go. But it is, of course, your blog.”
You’ve done a great job Phil, you’ve transformed the blog for the better. I hope this proves the truth is more important to me than any anti-wind dogma on my part. It’s also a blog about the role of discourse and decision-making in terms of Policy & Impact, aimed at those who maybe didn’t even realise there were two sides to the wind debate. Regarding the accusations I’ve thrown at wind energy, sure, I’m the first to admit they won’t all hold water, but in all IT troubleshooting we start with the basics and then gradually get more complicated. Is it plugged in? Have you turned it on? Were you able to log in? We’ve started with the old chestnuts and then gradually refined our questions to more complicated stuff.
You’ve definitely helped me rule out most of the basic conceptual arguments against wind power for being the trigger to the negative reaction I have towards wind turbines. I had to ask, even if simply to rule them out. So what are we left with? Something about how the wind turbines operate, whether it be the look, the sound or the motion, or a toxic combination of all elements. Do some affect me worse than others? It can depend on the weather, and the proximity to the turbines, plus how long we are in their presence. Off the top of my head, the area around Todmorden, Reaps Moss and Crook Hill wind farms routinely makes me feel nauseous. The turbines near Sheffield/Rotherham visible from the M1 are very bad triggers. Ovenden Moor is bad. If, in the name of research, I had to pick a wind farm that doesn’t affect me too badly, well Knabbs Ridge near Harrogate is relatively inoffensive (despite losing a turbine in a fire this time last year!). I’d have to do more detailed research and analysis to say for sure though..
In summary, to me it’s quite good and interesting that we’ve been able to refute some of the more simplistic accusations against wind, because it means that whatever IS causing the bad reaction is clearly more complicated and worthy of investigation. The mystery is only increased by ruling out the false causes. The best thing turbine proponents could do would be to work with victims, with good intentions and mutual respect on all sides, to really get some objective truth on this matter. A more receptive approach from wind companies to the unintended consequences of their products would be helpful, and I would love to be involved in this research. In turn, I would be happy to concede that, done well, wind “can” work.
In terms of keeping a record of wind energy’s impacts locally, well I’ve managed to capture two faulty turbines in one village, both having lost blades within seven weeks. Even assuming everything you’ve said about wind power is true, a wind turbine without blades won’t be producing a single watt of renewable energy! Especially if the turbine maker is now bust. Two going down in one village over a couple of months isn’t a great advert for the sustainability of wind turbines.
(5) More Wind Power?
“I’ve not been trying to promote onshore wind, rather to explain why I think it’s the least-expensive, but second-worst, option for coping with the inevitable, and thus why there’s likely to be substantially more of it.”
Really? Not in England, over the next five years, anyway! Not near me, anyway, if I can help it, unless I am persuaded that it’s in my interests to support any such schemes. If it is the case that there will be more onshore wind power in England, there will be more people experiencing negative impacts from wind turbines, more division within local communities, more opposition from residents, more anti-wind art and culture. It will certainly give fodder for more blogging, that’s for sure!
Final comment: Phil, you’ve been a great sport and have personally contributed to shifting my stance, from the moment you joined the debate. My position is now to drop any attacks on wind power for “not working”. Other people will still pursue this line of attack, not me. You’ve persuaded me that wind power can work, albeit not the best solution, but it’s not intrinsically an out and out scam, sure.
I can now formulate a new synthesis: yes, wind turbines do generate a certain amount of CO2-free electricity, but unfortunately in the process, something about their operation triggers an adverse reaction in several people’s mental health and well-being. Possibly even (at a lower rate) everyone’s.
That’s where I’m at now, which is significantly different from where I was when I started the blog, only a few months ago.
The power of dialectic in action 🙂