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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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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.

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?).

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.

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!


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.

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.”

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.

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.

From a cheap sustainable source of energy, windmills / farms have now been demonised.
We are told [amongst other things] they are:
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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’?

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.

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???

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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

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 😉

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.

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.

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


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

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?

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?

Phil says:
20 April 2012

The figures came from more than one source, try an internet search for “electricity generation availability factor” or “electricity generation capacity factor”.

Thanks I will have a dig around, it just that there is so much ‘info’ around about this subject, but actually getting accurate data is proving quite difficult.

Nick says:
27 April 2012

Hi M.
From what I understand and from hearsay, I can say this about efficiency on wind turbines;
A wind turbine will turn and generate for about 80% of the time
A wind turbine will be able to convert only 60% of the wind which passes through its rotors into electricity, this is known as the Betz limit.
A wind turbine has a capacity factor of about 30%, this means that although it may say it can generate X amount of Mega Watts, on average it will only produce about 30% of this (however it doesn’t mean it can’t generate more than this, this is to do with the available wind resource).

I hope this helps.

No2Wind says:
27 April 2012

Hello, Nick.
DECC DUKES2011 publication, Page 218, Table 7.4, shows the Load Factors [Americanised as “Capacity Factor”!] for wind generation across the UK as
Onshore , Offshore
2006 27.2% 28.7%
2007 27.5 25.8
2008 27.0 30.4
2009 27.4 26.0
2010 21.7 30.5
giving 5-year averages for Onshore – 26.2% and Offshore – 28.3%.
However, the averages in many respects are completely misleading because they do not identify when the daily [if ever daily] generation takes place and whether it fits neatly into the rhythms of our modern lives.
If more WTs are landed, I fully expect the annual averaged load factors to drop even more as “best wind” locations are used up.
This, of course, is not the case with nuclear or fossil fuel generating stations.

Nick says:
27 April 2012

Hi No2Wind,
Thanks for the stats, yes I remember now I have seen this document, I think I also recall they say that 2010 was an appalling year for wind, I guess this is something to do with climate change but only time will tell.
I find your prediction of load factors reducing due to all the good sites being used up interesting. Having compared the Noabl dataset with the DECC dataset of operational wind turbines, it seems to suggest that we still have ample places to put wind turbines with a good wind resource. I consider a good wind resource about 6.5ms at 45m AGL (mainly becuase I believe most developers also consider this). However you may be right that as these locations are used up it will be more financially viable to use lower wind speed sites (or maybe we’ll import electricity from other countries first before we develop the lower wind speed sites).
The above is a similar situation as to the coal fields in the UK being closed down imported coal being cheaper and now some of these coal fields are being re-opended beucase it is now financially viable to dig it out.
Surely there has to be suitable locations for new nuclear and fossil fuel stations as well. Grid, transport distances of the fuel, and therefore they also have limited space, otherwise why build nuclear in the same place this time around. I know for fact that nuclear has to be placed near large water bodies for the cooling process.
Gas turbines, and large hydro systems are the only systems which fit nicely into out modern lives as they can be turned on and off at the switch of a button. Nuclear can’t do this it is considered a base load for the UK as I understand it. Wind has the ability to be switched off, but not re-started so it is half-way there. (Please don’t give the argument about costs of switching off wind, the National Grid creates prediction tables, operators say they will supply X amount, if the fail to supply they get fined, if the NG get their predictions wrong they pay up, this happens for all power generation, it just so happens wind is easy to turn off).

Maybe we are wrong and should be adapting our modern life to fit with the current times (going to bed when it gets dark and getting up with the sunrise) rather than trying to fit the world to us?

Final word. M. do you drive a car? are you aware that this only has a thermal efficiency of 30%, do you complain to the car manufactures about this poor efficiency?

No2Wind says:
27 April 2012

Hello again, Nick.
This is what UCTE (Union for the Co-ordination of Transmission of Electricity in Europe had to say in its report after the investigation into why 15,000,000 Europeans were subjected to some 3 hours of total black-out in November 2006.
“In both under-frequency areas (West and South East), sufficient generation reserves allowed restoring the normal frequency in a relatively short time. In the over-frequency area (North East), the lack of control over generation units (quick reduction of schedules and automatic reconnection of wind generation) contributed to deterioration of system condition in this area (long lasting over-frequency with severe transmission lines overloading). Generally, the uncontrolled behavior of generation (mainly wind farms and combined-heat-and-power) during the disturbance complicated the process of reestablishing normal system conditions.”
In real terms, the Grid monitors mains frequency and, if the demanded load is too large for the available generation on-line, the frequency decreases and if the demanded load is smaller than the available generation on-line, the mains frequency increases.
Interestingly the Germans are now replacing nuclear power with 17 new brown coal (lignite) plants and not wind generation. Perhaps the point has been proven.
Time and experience will tell regarding wind power station performance but so long as we keep wind generation we are tied to imported volatile non-guaranteed supplies of gas.
Large hydro systems in the UK can only be switched onto the Grid for something like 4-6 hours in total before the Upper Reservoirs have to be re-charged with the water. Additionally, the water and submerged wood debris etc. residues undergo anaerobic decomposition to produce methane (or should that be aerobic decomposition?).
There is no need to source more locations for either nuclear or fossil fuelled generation – we just re-furbish or re-build on original sites with the correct capacities.
The financial cut-and-thrust of privatised power generation is something we must get away from as it is the customer who pays in the end as these companies recoup the fines from the only source available.
I agree with your point that it might benefit society if we went to bed when the sun went down and got up when it rises. But we are faced with a society which is taught to want what it can’t have or, if it can have it, it is immediate – nothing to look forward to. ‘Anticipation is better than realisation’.

No – All power generation plants quote maximum generation capacity as if all generators within the operation are in use – so wind farms should be considered just the same – and they are .

Wind farms are one of the renewable sources of energy – and is better than solar in the UK until solar becomes far more efficient – The hydro generators are far better – but have a greater permanent effect on the environment and far more expensive to build., Which is why hydro is not being built at the rate needed.

Frankly anyone who thought that wind-farms would create constant energy needs a refresher course in science and weather . They were always designed to supply intermittent energy. The greater the instantaneous energy they supply – the less energy that needs to be supplied by conventional (and wasteful) fossil sources through the national grid, All power stations generate the amount of energy actually required at the time by consumers – so are on and off all the time (nuclear is considered a base supply because they are so much more costly and wasteful to control) – . That is why wind farms were built – they are far better for the environment..

Wind is FREE – Water is FREE – Nuclear – oil – gas cost a fortune to produce and generate CO2 and particulate pollution (radio-active nuclear waste for 100s (1000s) of years) Oil and gas SHOULD be used to make plastics we need for production. Electricity (through batteries) from solar water and wind should be used to drive our cars, Not wasteful fossil fuels It is the main reason fuel prices have risen.

Nuclear generated waste pollute for generations – Wind Solar and Hydro do not pollute at all.- except a little noise.

The RSPB recently reduced their objections to wind farms as their observational research indicates that only one species of bird is adversely affected by proximity of wind farms – and no species is killed by the blades. I used to work for the CEGB.

Alan Johnson says:
22 April 2012

Alan Johnson
Wind is not free. We are all paying around £7.2 bi/llion per annum in subsidies to the wind energy companies. This is paid as an addition to your electricity bill As a result, electricity produced by wind power costs more per unit than any other means of producing electricity. Wind is not economicalt as a back up power is required in the event the wind stops blowing or is blowing too hard. This is usually gas as it is the only form of energy that can be ramped up and down quickly enough to match the variations of the wind, and gas is expensive.

No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

No, wind is NOT free. Who do you think has to pay for the enforced 24-365 fossil fuel backup?
You do, like the rest of us and that is on top of the subsidies exacted on your electricity bill to pay for renewables.

OK, so wind farms contribute energy which we need, but not without environmental damage. I see them as a blot on landscape views in many areas. Also, what are their construction costs & the environmental damage caused by such constructions, let alone servicing/breakdown costs particularly of those at sea?
However, what annoys me, is that little progress appears to being made on Solar Farms as a less visually environmentally damaging alternative, being only a few feet above ground level, which must also be useful when maintenance/repairs are required. Also, with their improving technology, costs are likely to fall and efficiency increase.

All generation systems will cause some environmental damage – whether wind solar hydro nuclear gas or oil – but the wind solar and hydro use FREE sustainable energy. Nuclear Oil and gas are wasteful in their use of fossil fuels and are unsustainable. Personally I like the look of wind-farms – remind me of the old windmills – they weren’t silent either. .

The problem with solar is the vast amount of land needed to absorb sufficient sunlight in the UK to generate the amounts of energy needed – Israel has a better sunshine rate – That land underneath will not produce food very well – as food needs sunlight as well.. Have you seen what a 200 acre solar farm looks like – their impact can be very intrusive.? The wind farm has a much smaller footprint. The big advantage with solar is the ability to build small generators on suitable roofs of private houses. But that will not be cheap and could be opposed by energy companies.

The only environmentally sustainable and minimal impact device (when running) generation I know of – is the twin underground lakes – at two different levels – the higher lake generates electricity at peak rate – through dynamo/motor devices powered by the water drained into the lower lake which stores it – Then when the demand is off peak – the dynamo/motors are reversed to pumps to pump the water back up to the high lake – The cost is enormous – but – after building they are not seen and use FREE sustainable energy. – maintenance of the motors can be managed underground. In an emergency the water can even alleviate temporary water shortages

Frankly ALL hydro solar and wind technologies costs are likely to fall and efficiency increase as more are built..

That is true of Nuclear Oil and Gas too – but – they are NOT sustainable – and are peaking in their efficiency and development..

Surely the problem is not the cost of building – or maintenance of the sustainable generation – but the alternative is unthinkable – ever reducing supplies – ever rising prices – ever more unsustainable pollution.

I remember when petrol was 1/11d a GALLON or under 10p – Now car drivers are very likely to spend more on fuel than food (recent AA report)..

Bio-fuels are a dead end in my opinion – because as population increases – food requirements increase – space to grow the bio-fuels decreases without massive de-forestation. The use of algae as an alternative secondary source will severely pollute oceans and destroy wild-life habitat far more than wind-farms.. .

If all these objections were raised when coal fired power stations were being designed, we may very well have never built any in the first place.
The Victorians would probably have giant towers producing electricity out of the ether [ have a look at Israel].
IT seems this is not a single solution answer, we need a combination of viable sources taking advantage of Earths natural energy resources, and how about a reinvestigation of our ability to tap the Earths magnetic field.
How about some serious investigation into Nikola Tesla’s ground breaking work on electrical distribution.
The problem is that while we bang our heads together looking for solutions, those that make the decisions only have one motive, profit, forget duty to mankind or collective resources, if it dont make a profit it aint gonna happen!

Windfarms are seen as unprofitable, if they were seen as otherwise instead of derision, they would be receiving high praise.

Oliver Hitch says:
20 April 2012

I watch Wallander – the Swedish version – and you often see shots of a line of streamlined white turbines turning gently on the horizon. And to me they are things of beauty. Seriously, just our modern version of windmills which of course we all love to restore. Do you think people objected to them too? They are so much more attractive than electricity pylons which we now barely notice as we accept the benefits they bring to our lives. Does no one else share this view?

Thought this might be of interest – the RSPB has planned to install a wind turbine at its headquarters in Bedfordshire. http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2169124/rspb-flies-wind-turbine-plan/

I think this is a really interesting discussion – I’m very keen on renewable energy and I think my personal opinion is probably quite close to Sylvia’s. But there’s certainly a lot to think about.

No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

Yes, “Nikki”, there is a lot to think about and the first thing is why have we neglected to consider what real power engineers know makes a 24-365 secure, controllable and demandable energy generation policy?
That is the immense problem we now have at the beginning of this 21st century and it affects the UK world competitiveness.
Perhaps some of my other postings, and those of Phil, will lead you to ‘learn a lot’ rather than having ‘a lot to think about’.
The solution is quite simple and means bringing back the CEGB and, instead of letting technically illiterate politicians loose on our energy generation policies, revert back to the technically LITERATE engineers and scientists who ran the system with such astute cleverness for something like 70-80 years.

No2Wind says:
23 April 2012

Another factor to consider , “Nicki”. The Mail on Sunday did a 7-page Reportage article about neo-dymium. That is the high magnetic density material which is used in wind turbine generators.
Did you know it leaves large TOXIC lakes in China where it is mined and reduced?
So whilst you have your opinion about renewable energy, think deeply about how other parts of the world are being destroyed for the European “green” dream. Think about the Chinese people who it is affecting. Is that morally justified?
Don’t forget also several UK industries have exported their carbon emissions to the Far East where goods are made using Far East electricity and then sent back into the UK markets.

Stan Smith says:
21 April 2012

Wind farms are a colossal wast of money. Consumers need a reliable source of electricity 24/7, and wind farms cannot supply this. When there is no wind, and when there is too much wind they either burst into flames or are shut down and no electricity is generated in either case. They can never be regarded as a continuous source of energy.
We live on an island. i.e. we are surrounded by water. Tides come in and recede twice a day without fail. Expenditure on wind farms should be cancelled immediately and all future expenditure spent in promoting tidal power with turbines in the sea wherever it is safe to place them

Sadly they never were regarded as a constant source of power – only by a certain section of society I am too polite to name, The costs of installing effective tidal power is colossal – so is their maintenance and their environmental impact on fish birds and crustaceans. Wind-farms represent the minimal environmental impact at reasonable build costs. Large scale solar farms have higher environmental impacts – unless attached to buildings – but then they are not Solar farms but a solar unit…

The only sea water power system that I know that is “economical” to build is wave power – sadly wave power suffers from intermittent generation just as wind – farms do. These have been built – but do not generate a mythical constant power as they depend on weather, Finally have to point out we do not ever generate constant power it rises and falls according to demand – we need to match the supply to demand in an environmentally friendly way. Wind – farms start to do that – so are not a colossal waste of money. but we need far more building of solar and hydro generators.

No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

Sorry “Richard” wind power stations do not do what you think the toy-box states. They are a COLOSSAL waste of our money and resources. Windfarms do NOT represent the minimal environmental impact at reasonable build costs. That is met by conventional fossil fuels and nuclear.
Wave and tidal is playing with the embodiment of our attraction forces with other planets in our solar system. Play with it at our peril because we don’t know if the earth will go off axis by compromising these huge ocean forces.
Solar has a much lower load factor than wind generation and so is doubly useless fo a modern competitive society.

Whether wind turbines are obscene or elegant or whether PV panels are boring or functional, we may have to get accustomed to them or cope without a regular electricity supply. Wake up to the consequences of our profligate and rising population and find better solutions if you don’t like what is happening.

I don’t have a problem with wind as an energy source but at the time of writing it seems that 39% of respondednts to the little survey at the end of the article are against turbines and think they are awful. This does surprise me but the opposition to wind farms is strong, is articulate, and has to be reckoned with in a sensible way. I haven’t yet seen a response to Dave D’s first point about the alleged noise nuisance of turbines. This remains one of the main bones of contention [alongside the landscape impacts]. The reputed inefficiency of wind power also needs to be tackled responsibly with fair assessments of the alternatives and long-term costings. There must be a way of fitting governors to turbines so they do not over-generate power and have to be switched out when the wind blows strong – we can do without this nonsensical argument against them,.

I agree that we need to have an objective assessment of the alternative sources of energy available, including a review of costs and potential for improvement. One thing that we can be sure of is that not everyone will be happy with the outcome. We should pay attention to constructive criticism and just ignore those who are opposed to everything.

I see a lot of potential for solar PV used on new buildings wherever possible, rather than adding these panels piecemeal. OK, they are not much use in the middle of winter or at night but they could help do a lot to cope with the demands of air conditioning, which is increasingly popular. People with solar PV seem to be very well aware of their electricity use, which is a step forward.

I don’t think the noise of wind farms is any worse than aircraft – and we live with them easily.

Have to add that air-conditioning in the UK was unheard of 30 years ago – and we lived with that happily- Frankly the hedonistic lifestyle needs to stop. we need to REDUCE power consumption – not increase it – otherwise any new improvements will be as wasted just as much as they are now . We’ve had objective assessments of alternative sources before and the answer is clear – investment – But the de-nationalised power companies are only interested in personal instant profits – when they were nationalised there was a common goal – which is why I support re-nationalisation.

The reason governors are unlikely to work well is it is not just over-generation of power that is the problem but sheer stress on the blades and structure – The stronger and heavier the blades (to cope with the stress) the less effective they are in low wind conditions. It is cheaper to stop the blades and rotate at 90 degrees to wind direction. in gales.

What we need is a holistic approach to power generation – so hydro – wind – and solar power need to be equally supported as an integrated system. This is just not so now. We have more than enough natural power sources to supply a constant controllable supply. . Interestingly I did research and development on wave – tidal power in the 1960’s – fifty years ago – still virtually no further large development. Because the greedy power companies are not interested in reducing fossil/nuclear consumption only in increasing profits.
Generally the reason people with solar PV are aware of their electricity use is they pay for it.

I believe that there is huge potential to cut down waste of electricity and we should all be doing our bit. Whether we like it or not, air conditioning plant is gradually being installed in existing buildings and built into new ones. It may be the next ‘must have’ feature to be added to houses.

Our nationalised companies were very inefficient and beset by union problems. In order to compete, private companies have to be more efficient. That does not mean that they should be allowed to make excessive profits and we should certainly not be buying power from French and German companies. Anyway, we don’t have the money to nationalise power generation, so you are just going to have to live with it and hope that some government will sort out the profiteering. The present government has not done much but neither did the last government.

I think it would help if the problem of shear stress was explained to the public, who cannot understand why wind turbines are shut down in gales.

I do not know whether the noise of wind turbines is something we can be expected to cope with or not. Many of us do not have to cope with aircraft noise.

No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

“John Ward” you need to read Amanda Harry [UK], Barbara Frey [UK], Dr. Chris Hanning [UK], Dr. Sarah Laurie [Australia], French Academy of Medicine [2006], the Davis family in Lincolnshire, Dr. Alex Salt [USA], Dr. Nina Pierpont [Wind Turbine Syndrome]. Then find out why a moratorium on wind turbine installation has been called in Ontario. All because of noise such as LFN. Not only does it affect people’s hearing but also balance and mental capacity for fighting depression. It also has effects on cardiac problems.
Do you think the people of Powys Wales are stupid?
So there is a start for you.

No2Wind says:
23 April 2012

For heaven’s sake, get it right “wavechange”. Shutting down in high wind has very little to do with shear stress. A wind turbine acts just like a lamp-post in windy conditions. It becomes a sail and thus the problem of the strength in the tower is down to bending moment as calculated by the structural engineer. [Such calculations are also done for lamp standards]. Don’t forget that the rotors are also feathered to reduce the bending moment and the whole rotating structure is braked in situ, probably on the shaft.
Additionally there is a limit to the mechanical rotation speeds of the moving parts.
So now perhaps you can explain to the public where shear stress comes into the picture.

I am obliged to you, No2Wind, for the further reading instructions. I have had no scientific training or experience [other than that gleaned through nearly fifty years of reading Which? magazine] so I probably could not cope with the some of the sources you have cited. I find this Conversation site helpful in getting abreast of some of the issues, as ordinary people see them, in a friendly and “conversational” fashion but, as you can tell from earlier postings, I am pro-wind power. Perhaps my own attempts to experience the effects of wind turbines have been inadequate since I have not detected any noise nuisance around the turbines I have stood near. I should get out more.
And I wish you wouldn’t talk to wavechange like that – we’re all trying to get our heads round this subject and his contributions to these conversations are, without exception, pertinent, coherent, lucid, and above all restrained.

No2Wind says:
24 April 2012

Point taken, John, but I have been getting my head around this subject for 20 years and more [as an engineer] and have found some things difficult to understand but it does eventually come. Cast aside your lack of scientific training and experience and keep reading Which as it builds up an internal “gut” feel for the science of things – I have no medical training, but do understand the doctors contributions I read are passing important information to me about noise and medical problems associated with aero-generators, to give them their correct name.
It is important to understand that there is the noise you can hear directly through your ears but have you ever been next to a large explosion and been aware of other sensations than the noise in your ears? This is your sensory perception of air and ground induced vibrations and these are what tend to be sensed as low frequency vibrations, whilst your ears cannot detect them; buildings and loose windows are vibrated by them. These vibrations can actually induce things like vomiting so it is easy to see how cardiac problems can be antagonised. However, it is as well to understand it does not happen to everyone, thank goodness, as we all have different sensitivities.
Hope this is of some help and that you continue to investigate. If you need more, do not hesitate to ask. It is a long and painful process to learn the facts, many of which when investigated fully, and not taken at face value, are surprising.
On noise you may also find it beneficial to google “L.P.Lombardi M.D.” to get into why Ontario has a moratorium on wind turbine development – basically noise and economics.
Unfortunately “wavechange” asked for what he received. I gave him references and proofs and he stuffed them in the waste bin. Enough said!

Charlie Guthrie says:
22 April 2012

I can’t speak for utlility scale wind farms, but if you look at smaller turbines the figures speak for themselves.
I know a farmer that from a £60k investment in a turbine has now cut his electricity bill from £500 per month to just £100 per quarter. That’s pretty good going in anyones book. Add into that the Feed in Tariff incentive he gets and suddenly you have a business model that could yield a profit and therefore keep his dairy running, plow income back into the local economy etc. So i moved away from pure facts and into the debatable world of how profits can make a difference, but anyone can see the underlying logic is there.
It’s worth noting that although I won’t name the farmer in question, he has appeared on several BBC programmes adding in a ‘owners eye view’

The only problem is that those who are not generating their own power are subsidising those who are. Hopefully more will generate their own power in future and deserve some incentive, but the Feed In Tariff was too generous to be fair to the rest of us.

No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

We DON’T have to rely on imported energy if only our energy policy politicians got off their a@@@s and invested our tax in developing coal, shale gas and nuclear thorium technologies.
Don’t forget that 1MW Installed Capacity of wind or solar generation ENFORCES at least 0.9MW of newly built 24-365 fossil fuel backup generation. That wasted fuel compromises the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (Yes, taken straight from the 1987 Brundtland Commission UN definition of ‘sustainable development’.)

[This comment has been edited for being personal. Thanks, mods.]

In her introduction, Sylvia has briefly outlined some positive and negative factors about wind power to get the discussion started.

You are entitled to your opinion, but if you are going to be rude and personal you might as well leave the rest of us to continue the debate, commenting on the issues and hopefully not being rude to each other.

Explain EXACTLY why “1MW Installed Capacity of wind or solar generation ENFORCES at least 0.9MW of newly built 24-365 fossil fuel backup generation” please.

A 1 MW capacity of newly built wind or Solar farm simply means it can REPLACE 1MW of wasteful coal, shale gas and nuclear thorium technologies.already built which pollute.- when the environmental conditions allow it. It does not mean that FURTHER wasteful coal, shale gas and nuclear thorium technologies need to be built to maintain current energy generation.

If we built more Hydro Generation then it could permanently replace wasteful coal, shale gas and nuclear thorium technologies. Both solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy to INTERMITTENTLY replace the other technologies and so SAVE fossil fuels. Saving fossil fuels means there is LESS pollution.

I think we need to invest in wind solar and especially hydro generation – and cut as much of the wasteful coal, shale gas and nuclear thorium technologies as possible.

Coal and oil are valuable starting materials for a vast number of products we take for granted. We need them for future generations, quite apart from the pollution issue.


WELL SAID very eloquent! Could not agree more – plus No2Wind’s science seems a little miss-informed – I know nobody in power generation ever expected wind farms to be anything but an intermittent supply to supplement any existing generation whatever that is. It still remains that any energy supplied by wind farms takes the place of the energy supplied by oil gas or nuclear generation – so saving those resources for future generations to use responsibly –

No2Wind seems hell bent in denuding the earth of fossil and nuclear resources NOW and creating pollution that has already started to destroy the environment.
It is just not sustainable

Thanks Richard. As an asthmatic and have suffered a lot from the effects of pollution, but everyone is affected. Doing a chemistry degree helped me understand the value of our limited natural resources. As you say, we have a duty to help preserve resources for our successors.

No2Wind says:
22 April 2012

“Richard” wants me to explain why “1MW Installed Capacity of wind or solar generation ENFORCES at least 0.9MW of newly built 24-365 fossil fuel backup generation”.
As a qualified electrical engineer [30 years Chartered, by the way, “Wavechange” so I can’t say I give much credence to your chemistry knowledge as carbon dioxide is the chemical and food of life without which we would not exist!]. My youngest daughter is also an asthma sufferer but I would rather we had a reliable, secure, demandable, controllable, emergency electricity supply at our hospital and London A&Es than having to rely on intermittent wind or solar to work emergency equipment; she has been pulled in blue several times. Anyhow I diverge.
04 June 2008 : Paul Golby, CEO of E.ON “E.ON said that it could take up to 50 GW of renewable energy to meet the EU target. But it would require up to 90% of this amount as backup from coal and gas plants to ensure supply when intermittent renewable supplies were not available. This would push Britain’s Installed Power base from the existing 76 GW to 120 GW.” {Guardian article}
23 April 2009: “Scottish power says that just 30 GW of wind power will require about 25 GW of backup power in case the wind is not blowing hard enough to move the wind generators”. [National Wind Watch].
Guess who is expected to pay for all this backup – that’s right, the British taxpayer so all the (foreign) wind companies can keep drawing subsidies from Ofgem.
As an engineer capable of working the calculation, I believe this backup should be sized at 100%.
And to correct another mistake. Wind and solar power do NOT replace coal, gas or thorium. What happens is that, if and when wind or solar is generating, as that energy cannot be stored, the coal and gas plants are turned down to allow the wind and solar energy the privilege to take load whilst they are so intermittently available. In this situation the coal and gas are running less efficiently and producing more carbon dioxide in the flue gases; these fossil fuel plants cannot be switched off because they can take up to 24 hours to build up steam again. gas is generally quicker which is why gas plant is more generally modulated to allow wind power onto the Grid.
Sorry, you guys, the science and technology of ‘No2Wind’ is not mis-informed. It is dead right. You have a lot of learning to do.

Hello No2Wind, thank you for your many passionate comments. However, some of your comments, including this one, are rude. Please make sure that your comments are about the topic at hand and not about other commenters, or authors. Have a read of our commenting guidelines to understand what we expect of members of our community: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

Plus, it’s important to note that not every Conversation starter is balanced or shows both sides of the argument. This is deliberate – Which? Conversation gives Which? authors a chance to start a debate by proposing a strong personal opinion. This is just the beginning of the Conversation, where your comments explore the positive and negative arguments for each topic. We also have a poll for you to vote on what option you believe. Thanks, Patrick.

Longley Shopper says:
23 April 2012

Au contraire “No2Wind”. I am highly sceptical that far too many of Which?’s subscribers and staff are right-wing, NIMBY, and pro-privatisation capitalists.

Sylvia is providing a welcome element of balance which gives me some hope that Which? and it’s subscribers are not a very unbalanced clique.

And before ANYONE dares to jump in and accuse me of being a “commie-pinko Guardian reader” let me make it quite clear that what I want to see is BALANCE, not an extremist view in either direction.