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Are wind farms an eyesore or do they blow you away?

Plans are afoot to build another wind farm on Thornton Moor – old home of the Brontë sisters. Opinion is divided: although some are in favour of wind farms, others think they will damage the landscape and impact on tourism.

Personally, I am all in favour of wind turbines as I think they are really important.

The UK has 40% of Europe’s entire wind resource and plenty of coastlines for offshore wind, so we should make the most of it.

It’s easy to be against wind farms unless you have considered all the alternative options.

We need new power

Yes, wind turbines are visible in our landscape and we need quite a few of them to produce the same amount of energy as a traditional power plant, but what if we don’t build any? We would have to keep relying on imported energy as well as building new power stations.

Of course, we can upgrade existing power plants but we are likely to need new ones too, and nuclear power plants are seen as a low carbon alternative. How would people react if the go-ahead was given for a nuclear power plant near their home?

With its great wind capacity, the UK already has 339 wind farms in operation, generating over 6,000 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power more than 3.6 million homes. And there are a further 50 wind farms under construction and 272 other projects that have been given the go-ahead.

Wind farms – an eyesore?

But some people don’t like wind farms. They object by saying that they’re an eyesore, can impact on tourism, are noisy and can kill birds. But for me, when I see a wind turbine, I don’t see ugliness – I think of clean technology, innovation, modernism and sustainability.

I also find wind farms reassuring, because I know this is electricity we are producing here in the UK, simply from the power of wind. The energy we produce doesn’t depend on anyone else, on importing any gas or coal and it should provide us with energy security and shield us from rising oil prices in the future.

And while it might cost us all a bit more on our energy bills now, I believe it’s important to take a long-sighted view and see the benefits for the future, especially if oil prices keep rising as they have in the last few years.

Do you think we should be planning more wind farms in the UK? Or should we look to other forms of energy to see us through to the future?

Do you like wind farms?

No - I think they're awful (48%, 487 Votes)

Yes - I think they're a great idea (40%, 399 Votes)

I kind of like them, but not in my back yard (9%, 90 Votes)

I'm not sure yet (3%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,009

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Comments
Member

Wind farms are great but they can create residuary
unacceptable levels of noise as to constitute a legal
nuisance…. there was a case where a disgruntled
neighbour succeeded in obtaining a noise abatement
order of some kind or restricting its unfettered use.

Member

This was a case that actually occurred in the UK that was reported
some 2-3 years ago if I correctly recall…. repetitive whosh, whosh
,whosh, I can imagine and particularly when not at optimal setting OR
as to there being a malfunction of some kind.

Have never been to such a place myself to hear first-hand,
so what’s stated is hearsay (what else?).

Member

Can’t recall the detailed facts but it was injunctive relief
sought and being obtained in Court whether dispute was between
individual neighbours or as to individual and nearby wind farm…
cannot believe wind turbines even if singly are completely silent, noise
IS generated and the question is one of degree as to whether those
adversely affected – on a subjective basis – shd have to continue to
put up with it…. put in another way, has a tortious wrong been
committed (?) resulting in loss and damage, if so aggrieved party is legally
entitled to seek remedies which the Court is duty-bound seriously to consider
if not grant outright following trial of the issues.

Member

When considering the cost/benefit analysis I’ve discovered there is an important factor that is rarely considered. On a visit to Canada I asked why some of the wind-turbines weren’t working. On each occasion I was told that they ‘cost a lot to fix when they go wrong’ and the local government/land holder responsible felt unable to do so in the current financial climate (in some cases – years). I don’t actually mind them if they’re useful but they’re just an eyesore if they’re not!

Member

Hmm.

I love them and I would be very happy to have huge wind farms within feet of my home.

Can someone help me to understand two of the arguments against them please? I genuinely don’t get these two:

1) noise: I have made a point of visiting a great many wind farms because I like them. I’ve photographed and video’d several. In every case – regardless of the weather (and I’ve been at some such as Royd Moor in South Yorkshire in terribly stormy conditions and some, such as the latest one in Doncaster (opened Jan 2012) on days so still that I was amazed to see the blades were turning) – I have been unable to hear even the slightest noise from the turbines at all, save for a very occasional “clang” at Royd Moor (not noticed this at any others) when the Nacelle turns slightly as the wind direction changes. I really cannot grasp where the issue of noise comes from? What noise is there? Are there some farms / turbines using a different technology that makes a noise?

2) harm to Birds: I’m a member of the RSPB and I know that the RSPB are anti-wind farm because they claim that they harm birds. How? I don’t understand this one either. When I’ve visited wind farms I have never seen injured or dead birds around the turbines. I never see birds fly into the sails. Sometimes I see birds perch on top of the Nacelle, but that’s it. The RSPB don’t seem to me (as a member) to have made it either clear or easy to find out what exactly this danger is.

The only other point I’d make is that it is often claimed that Wind Turbines cannot operate in high winds as it is unsafe. Readers may recall that in the severe storms in Scotland late last year there was TV footage of a wind turbine (offshore) on fire in the storms. I heard a report on the TV news, which was repeated several times that week, in which a National Grid spokesperson stated that the reason turbines had to be stopped in very high winds was because the National Grid cabling could not cope with the amount of power generated at high wind speeds. I’ve not heard this story again since those storms but it seemed to me to be absolutely shameful, if true, that under-investment in the Grid meant that free electricity from the wind could not be used.

Sorry to all those who think the turbines are ugly: I don’t really agree – they are less ugly than coal, oil, gas or nuclear power stations (and also far smaller) and they can be erected much faster and more cheaply than power stations too.

I’m all for them and think it’s wicked that we have not invested much more in wind (and wave) power decades ago.

I would love to hear more about the noise and especially the bird issues though.

Member
Nick says:
18 April 2012

HI Dave D,
In response to your point “2) harm to Birds: I’m a member of the RSPB and I know that the RSPB are anti-wind farm because they claim that they harm birds. How? I don’t understand this one either. When I’ve visited wind farms I have never seen injured or dead birds around the turbines. I never see birds fly into the sails. Sometimes I see birds perch on top of the Nacelle, but that’s it. The RSPB don’t seem to me (as a member) to have made it either clear or easy to find out what exactly this danger is.”
I disagree, the RSPB are very responsible and on their website http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/policy/windfarms/index.aspx they suggest they only oject to 6% of all wind farms. As far as I can work out they beleive that climate change is a bigger threat to bird death than wind turbines and are pro on the condition that they are suitably located.
Either way a recent report came out and is shown on the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17694256 )stating “many bird species are unaffected by wind farms, concludes a study carried out by UK bird charities.”

Member

I fully agree with everything you’ve said here Dave. As soon as somebody proposes to put up a turbine around here the uproar is deafening and it goes on and on. Our forebears littered this glorious countryside with windmills with whooshing sails, clattering machinery, and happy millers whistling as they sewed their sacks up. Nowadays we can’t even have a tranquil turbine. Each village probably only needs one or two to become virtually self-sufficient. To my mind they look a lot nicer than rooftops covered in those boring static PV panels.

Member
No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

Try reading up about RSPB and RSPB Energy. Also expand your mind and look at Iberica 2000 by Michel Duchamps for bird mortalities. [especially raptors] The photographs are quite gruesome with eagles being regularly decapitated. We have such birds of prey in Scotland and the islands.
Altamont in California.
Wind Turbine Syndrome.

Member

From a cheap sustainable source of energy, windmills / farms have now been demonised.
We are told [amongst other things] they are:
Dangerous
Harmful to wildlife.
More expensive than ‘traditional energy production’.
Atheisticly unsound. [come on they are prettier than power stations].

It seems as if some vested interests have started a vicious whispering campaign against this form of energy production, I wonder who would possibly gain from this?
It seems the windmills of yore dotted throughout Holland were pretty enough, but when they start challenging the energy producers they turn into monsters.

One question, which would you prefer, a wind farm or nuclear power station, I know which one I would rather live next to if it went wrong!

I just want to be able to put a small one in my garden, to save on some of the ridiculous electricity bills suddenly, that is not allowed….why?

Member

I assume you meant “Aesthetically” rather than “Atheisticly” – but what a wonderful spelling mistake, I’m left trying to imagine a windfarm that only religious people think would work well.

As for whether a windfarm would be preferable to a power station, remember that you would need an absolutely huge windfarm spanning an enormous area of countryside to produce the same power as a small nuclear station.

As for having a small one in your garden, I think you’ll find the power it produced wouldn’t be enough to make much of a difference to your electricity bills.

Member

I have not got a strong opinion about wind turbines yet, but I share Dave’s concern about them being shut down in high winds. I cannot understand the excuses given, though I would accept that they might be damaged if allowed to run at high speeds.

I certainly prefer wind turbines to pylons marching across the landscape.

Member

so how do you think the power will be transferred? Via magic?

Pylons will be required unless we want the cost of underground cabling to get the power produced onto the grid.

Member

I am simply comparing the appearance of wind turbines – which are simple and rather elegant – with pylons. Of course pylons are needed for efficient distribution of electricity.

Member
Lin says:
23 April 2012

If wind turbines continue to litter our landscape will will see MORE pylons as they are needed to connect turbines to the grid.

Member
FINSBURYPARKER says:
19 June 2012

I cannot understand the excuses given, though I would accept that they might be damaged if allowed to run at high speeds.
_________________________________________________________________________

The amount of heat generated in their gearboxes would and has caused the lubrication oil to overheat and ignite!
This should not happen as the Turbine blades have a device that causes them to ‘Feather’ their blades, exactly like an Aeroplane Engine Propeller when an engine fails, it reduces drag.
Sometimes this fail safe device fails to operate with the result that the gearbox oil overheats and ignites!
Now you can understand the ‘Excuses Given’?

Member

I do not claim to know anything about these turbines but it may not be an insurmountable problem to correct this problem. Mechanical devices are never going to be totally reliable but we have achieved a great deal in my lifetime.

Member

Any nimby that thinks the prospect of a power station in someone else’s back garden is better than a wind turbine in theirs, had better get used to the idea of living without electricity altogether! Just how selfish can you get???

Member
Nick says:
18 April 2012

According to the EU we have renewable targets to meet, these have been set to ensure that we tackle climate change. In 2001 a target of 10% of all energy should come from renewable, we should have met this by 2010 – did we? No according to UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) we did 6.8%. In 2009 once again the EU set us another target 15% of all energy produced should be renewable by 2020, are we meeting this target? DUKES states that progress is being made.
We can conclude from this that we need renewable energy sources. The question is which one, Solar, Wind, Hydro, Wave and Tidal.
Well if you start to look into each of these options it soon become obvious about where to go.
Solar, everyone barks on about how inefficient wind is quoting 30% (ignoring the fact that this is capacity factor which only makes up part of the efficiency) solar only has a 17% capacity factor. However with the government grants it has provided around about 76MW in 2010.
Wind onshore – is one of the most mature technologies we have, and we also have a very good wind resource, it produced 4GW in 2010.
Wind offshore – is building up and is expected to be the the major player in energy contribution, in 2010 it produced 1341MW.
Large hydro schemes over 5MW produced 1,453 MW in 2010. We are unlikely to see anything of this sort being built from now on because people complain when their land gets flooded.
Finally Wave and Tidal – to date according to DUKES has not produced enough energy for them to be able to supply data.
Are the government trying to encourage alternative to wind? Yes. In April 2001 Renewable Obligation Certificates where created as an incentive, originally 1ROCs was given out for each MW produced and it didn’t matter from which technology. Now however whilst wind remains at 1ROC wave and tidal has gone upto 2 per MW and offshore wind is at 1.5 per MW (although I believe this may soon be changing).
So even without the additional incentives of other technology onshore wind continues to be the major supply of renewable energy in this country. This tells me it is the only commercially viable option we have left.
Oh and by the way we can’t sit it out and wait for other technologies to come along and improve, climate change is real and we need to something about it now, not tomorrow.
Either cut down your energy use or accept that for a while you will have onshore wind as the major player for renewable energy.

Member

Some will say we should ignore the the problems of increasing power requirements and climate change because it could affect their ‘personal freedom’. Just this morning, the BBC has a report that road pollution is more than twice as deadly as traffic accidents. Even if predictions and statistics are over-the-top we really need to think about the environment and forget this personal freedom nonsense. Personal freedom has its place, but some issues are too important to be left to individuals who may put their own self-interest ahead of the common good.

As Nick says, we should be reviewing what alternative energy sources can realistically offer. They are not as useful as some claim and a lot has already been spent on development.

If the UK population was 30 million, that would overcome many of our current environmental problems but very few people seem interested in doing anything to arrest population growth, never mind tackle over-population.

Member

Serious food for thought here Nick,
Its just that ‘according to the EU’ bit that raises my Hackles.

I think that on our tiny Island, we should by now have accepted wind power as the safe viable alternative to fossil / nuclear electric generation, I cannot understand the anti windmill campaign at all as most of the arguments against them just do not make sense.

Member

Something that has to be shut down in high winds and when there’s no wind, is not a solution. They are far too expensive

Member

Please explain what you are comparing them to that makes them too expensive, I have heard this argument many times, but have yet to see any comparative costings, say over a 20 yr period against our traditional electricity production.

Member

Why? It wouldn’t prove or discredit my point, which is by the way “compared to NOT having them”

Basically the energy they generate is negated by the setup costs and costs when they are NOT generating energy. Do you understand now?

Water power would be a much better use of our money than paradoxical wind farms. How many rivers are there in this country for example? Water keeps flowing almost all the time, why not use that resource? Tides?

Just saying that they are better than digging old trees out of the ground and burning it is frankly really simplistic. For a renewable to be a viable option, it has to be efficient, it has to be cost-effective, not just “better than burning coal, oil or gas”

We need proper research into this, properly funded, but I guess it depends on who is attending David Cameron’s dinner parties at present doesn’t it?

Member

@Dean,
WHY: because if you quote something as being too expensive, you need a comparison [more expensive than what alternative] or else this invalidates the argument.
I thought you had access to comparative costings against other forms of electricity production.
Of course doing nothing means spending nothing means no outlay, but we will have to pay for that tomorrow.

You have said:
Basically the energy they generate is negated by the setup costs and costs when they are NOT generating energy. Do you understand now?
Obviously the answer is no, because you have given me no facts or figures, just stated your opinion, as without the relevant data it’s all any of us can do..

One reason I am dubious about the costings argument is that after initial set up costs the energy source we would be using is free, whereas for all other traditional production methods we have to keep paying for oil, gas, shale etc… Maintenance would also be minimal as frictionless bearings and magnetic drives mean no wear & tear.
The high wind issues are due to the present grid being unable to handle the capacity and can be solved by gearing and cut off switches, the few days we have which are dead [no wind at all] are offset by storing excess energy during times of overproduction.
These are possible technical solutions to some of the issues you raise but I would like to be able to understand the costing argument, unless someone out there has something to work with all we are going to do is make uninformed judgements.

Other methods, Hydro, [we have a nationwide canal network as well as many rivers] tidal, more effective solar have to be investigated too. If we could find a way to store the energy produced by lightning that would solve a lot of problems as well.

Your comment on who dines with Cameron is right on the button, as the big chiefs of the fossil fuel & power generation industries are not interested in alternative clean cheap renewable energy sources as there is no profits in them, I believe this is one of the reasons for the anti windmill campaign.

So let them tell us exactly why they believe this form of electricity generation is too expensive, then we can all look at the figures and have a proper informed debate.

Member

I don’t care if it is more expensive. If it’s the right answer we should go for it.

Member

But it’s NOT the right answer if it’s NOT efficient!!!

The reason that it is going ahead is because the Crown Estate owns ALL of the seabed. Basically, every windfarm will be owned by the Crown Estate. ie the Queen and her city financiers led by the Rothschild family and everyone “generating” power from it will have to rent it from the Crown. Then they will have to rent the cable to the mainland.

M. If you truly believe the point about Cameron then why can’t you see my point?

Windfarms are expensive, inefficient and a pointless blot on the landscape. I’m sure you’re able to use google if you want to find “figures” to bore everyone to death with 😉

Member
No2Wind says:
23 April 2012

@ “M.”. Dean is absolutely correct.
If you investigate properly you will find that a Unit [1 kW-hr] of electrical energy from an onshore wind farm costs roughly 2.3 times a fossil fuel or nuclear generated Unit [kW-hr]. {A Unit from an Offshore wind farm costs roughly 4 times} How you ask? Well factor in the Climate Change Levy charge and factor in the Renewables Obligation Certificate cost to us. All information available on the Internet.
BUT, significantly the ratios which I have put in front of you do not include the increased fossil fuel cost ENFORCED by the necessity of running a wasteful fossil fuel backup generation cost.
Simply put, unless you live in a remote location or are prepared to stand the cost financially for backup generation (Increased taxes) combined with renewable energy subsidies on your electricity bill, renewables are a “busted flush” and reducing the UK to penury.
And “M.”, why not diligently RESEARCH the relevant figures data to which you think Dean alone is party? He has had to do that and a comment thread is not the ideal forum onto which to download pages of Internet “Google” sourced references. You can see why from my responses. It is not a simple problem.
Your argument about, once set up, wind and solar benefitting from free fuels is total nonsense.
We do not have sufficient VERY EXPENSIVE hydro to store Mains electrical energy and the hydro we have is all used up in about 6 hours before the head reservoirs have to be recharged; don’t you think we would have done it by now if it was possible?
The electrical energy stored in lightning is less than a speck in the ocean. And it is electrostatic charge. [Very high voltage but virtually un-measureable static charge migration].
Before you talk about “frictionless” bearings, I would suggest you invent one.
The shutting down in high winds has absolutely nothing to do with the National Grid being able or unable to handle the generation power. It is concerned with the mechanical and structural limitations of structures. (I wrote earlier about the “sail” effect).
There are many of us out here who have been familiar with the figures for 40-50 years but the “green” fanatics and political caste, notwithstanding evidences given to House of Lords and House of Commons Select Committees have chosen, in their highly suspect self-righteous wisdoms, to ignore this country’s power scientists, engineers and technologists.
Mark my words, not long now before it all falls apart on the energy policy front especially when you have to live with unscripted rolling black-outs and brown-outs and emergency equipment is corrupted.

Member
Phil says:
18 April 2012

“With its great wind capacity, the UK already has 339 wind farms in operation, generating over 6,000 megawatts of electricity.”

No, that’s their maximum capacity. What they could theoretically produce if the conditions were simultaneously perfect for each and every wind farm. This doesn’t happen very often; if at all. In reality they only produce a fraction of that and are non-productive most of the time. Wind farms are a supplement to conventional means of generation not a replacement due to the unpredictability of wind.

As for cost per MW of installed capacity an offshore windfarm is nearly twice the price of a nuclear power station and still requires a massive subsidy.

Member
Nick says:
19 April 2012

Subsidy’s are not an argument.
Wind as previously discussed get subsidies, as does every other renewable energy solution.
But heres one you may not have heard of, so do fossil fuels.
These fossil fuel power stations have been around for a long time, yet still they cannot afford to work with subsidies.
Take for example Nuclear.
For a long time the British Government has kept the Nuclear industries liabilities cost down. However the Government has just raised there liability to just over £1billion should they have an incident.

DECC spends £6.93 billion a year, 86% of its budget, on managing nuclear waste and other liabilities from Britain’s current nuclear power programme, over eight times more than it spends on securing our future energy and climate security
Nuclear power requires without huge security and counter-terrorism costs. Most of this is paid for by the taxpayer, but official secrecy prevents us from knowing how much.

The above is taken from a briefing note issued this year (2012) to the Government

http://www.jonathonporritt.com/sites/default/files/users/BRIEFING%201%20subsidising_nuclear_26March%202012.pdf

Beyond Nuclear, Gas, oil and coal prices were subsidised by £3.63bn in 2010, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development , whereas offshore and onshore wind received £0.7bn in the year from April 2010. All renewables in the UK benefited from £1.4bn over the same period, according to data from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/27/wind-power-subsidy-fossil-fuels

Member
Phil says:
19 April 2012

Subsidy is an argument for anyone who thinks wind power is cheap and taking into consideration how much each source contributes. Coal, oil and gas receive a greater overall subsidy simply because they generate the lion’s share of our needs, 310 TWh/year compared to 16 TWh/year for renewables. Using the Guardian’s figues that gives an overall £11.7 million per TWh/year for fossil fuels compared to £87.5 million per TWh/year for renewables. Put simply renewables are getting nearly 7.5 times the subsidy of fossil fuels per unit generated.

It’s not a matter of spending on renewables or conventional/nuclear, supply from renewables is not dependable, wind turbines are generally available for only 20-40% of the time (compared to 70-90% for fossil fuel or nuclear) so we’ll never get away from needing both. Question is; can we afford both?

Member

@Phil
Can I have the source for the 20% – 40% up time please, i would like to do some research into this.

The whole subsidy of power generation reeks of corruption and bungs, I wonder what the real cost would be without all the add ons pays offs and false accounting?