Power To The People #1 – Winds of Change

Most people in the world are now aware that something is going on. Changing weather patterns, greater extremes of hot and cold, increasingly more violent storms, unpredictable patterns of rainfall. The only surprise is that it has taken so long for certain influential bodies to sit up and take notice. The scientific consensus is that although some of what is happening may be attributable to the normal cycles of Earth’s climate there has over the last two hundred years been another factor at work. Since the industrial revolution we have been pumping into the atmosphere carbon – heavy residue from the burning of fossil fuels.
We have come a long way since Thomas Newcomen’s steam pump first started to pump water from a Cornish Tin Mine in 1712, power generated by coal, oil and gas has become the most essential commodity in the economic system supporting our way of life. We are gluttons for energy, whether it is to drive our over- large cars, to put the picture on our TV screens, enliven our computers or provide nice hot water to our power showers. And yet the more energy we use the faster we erode the eco – system that supports us. Power from oil and coal is essential to our way of life but not to life itself. What do we need most, TV or food? An SUV or breathable air? Power showers or clean water to drink? Get down to the most basic human needs and abundant electricity does not figure. Still it would be tough to go back to living in wattle and daub huts and painting ourselves blue to while away the long winter evenings.
Like all addictions our addiction to energy is potentially destructive. Unless we find a way to feed our habit that does not have the harmful side effects of carbon fuels, we are in deep poo. And so there is a scramble to find alternative, sustainable, non – polluting sources of energy. This has to be a job for governments, especially since most governments have sold off the electricity franchises to irresponsible profiteers who cannot see beyond the next quarter’s profit and loss account. Are government’s up to the job though?
Enter an insincere grin with no head or body attached.
Mr. Blair has a target. No, it is not the one painted on his back by followers of Osama Bin Laden. Mr. Blair has a vision of how we can start to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions by 2010. It’s the wind, so stop taking indigestion tablets now.
Of all the alternative methods of generating power available the government had decided that covering the country with wind turbines is the only viable option, in other words the only one that gives the power generators a huge return on a very tiny investment. The most obvious flaw in the argument for wind power (apart from the fact that it is supported by the government’s scientific advisors and therefore must be crap,) is that wind is not a reliable sustainable source. Wind often does not blow. Think back to the very cold spell in February of this year; how still it was for nearly two weeks, how the frost clung to the trees and the air started to smell smoky because the fumes from our cars and heating systems were not being carried away. Wind sometimes does not blow for many days at the time we need energy most.
On top of that, wind turbines are not at all environmentally friendly. Take a look at the picture (oops, it isn’t working yet) the wind farm at Cliviger in Lancashire. The turbines make a not unpleasant addition to a rather bleak landscape. Trouble is those turbines would struggle to provide power for a little village like Cliviger. To replace one of the big coal fired power stations along the M6 corridor a few miles to the south would need ten thousand, that’s right TEN THOUSAND wind turbines. Take into account the five power stations along that 120 mile stretch of road and that is most of the high level open ground in this part of the world covered. Look at the picture again. Do you know where it is? If you were to walk a few miles beyond the horizon in the direction the camera is looking you would come to Withins Moor, Wuthering Heights in Bronte fiction, a popular destination for visitors. I mention that in passing, the real point is that these bleak uplands are a vital ecological asset. They are breeding grounds to the insects and birds that pollinate the plants in our countryside, they may look like an unprofitable waste of space to the unschooled eye of a corporate accountant but they benefit us all. Not just the kind of nuts who like to put on Gortex jackets and hike the moorland tracks in rain and snow, but each one of us. If the heathlands suffer, the farmlands suffer. If the farmlands suffer, first our pockets, then our stomachs, then our quality of life suffers.
Think back to those numbers. Fifty thousand wind turbines up there and you would still be nowhere near generating enough power for Lancashire and Yorkshire. Failure at what cost? Each turbine stands on a raft of concrete. Fifty thousand of those, as many acres of heather and peat torn up, natural water features like bogs drained (bogs are very important and not just for our colleague Jenny Greenteeth over at Boggart Blog) streams culverted and redirected and the ability of these vital upland areas to retain vast amounts of water impaired so that instead of draining slowly rainfall will run off into the streams and rivers and become flash floods as its course through the flood plain is blocked by indiscriminate development of housing and commercial property.
Promoting Wind Power as a genuine alternative is probably not the worst idea they government’s tame consultants have come up with, but it is not far off.

If any wind power scheme is proposed in your area please support the environmental groups who oppose it. Whatever they tell you in justification is lies, wind power is just not viable and will do as much harm to the environment as any hydrocarbon based power source.


Wind Power – objections
Selling out to big business – Greenpeace
FOE – Fools on Ecstacy? Friends of the Earth
George Monbiot – informed opinion

3 thoughts on “Power To The People #1 – Winds of Change

  1. Perhaps there is a case to have wind power in New Zealand.

    The environmental group that promotes wind generators here in NZ is the Green Party that is growing daily in popularity because of that policy. We are a coal-rich country but instead of increasing output of this fossil fuel the Greens are driving down demand.

    Despite your in-depth post and reasoned comments by MichaelStJohn I believe that for NZ, wind power on remote marine or high country farming areas in conjunction with solar panels or water power is the ideal alternative power.

    We will never have nuclear power plants as in the UK.

    Perhaps Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth campaigners could demonstrate to the world how to live in a fossil-free, and wind-turbine free environment where conditions outside are so hot that citrus fruit boils on the trees (Australia) or so cold that drips freeze in nose hairs. People would die in such conditions without electricity.

    CART is an appropriate acronym for primitive transport proposals.

    In the opal-rich area of Australia people live in underground houses like moles, where it is cooler.



  2. NZ is also a country rich in coastine with many bays and fjords (I don’t know if you call them fjords but the deep inlets I have seen on TV look similar)so tide power is problay the best option. Tides never fail, winds do not always blow. But you are pre-empting me, I was going to get on to other alternatives.
    It is a myth that Wind Power is cheap though.
    Thanks for your comment and for trying to get some discussion going.


  3. well hello,

    I thought you might like to know that a wind factory ( its not a farm its too big) is being planned for Ladymoor in Clyde Muirsheil Country Park in the West of Scotland. This is a conservation area and the breeding ground for Black grouse and Harrier hens – if planning permission goes ahead a natural heritage site will become an industrial landscape. 125 turbines 155m tall ( thats bigger than big ben)- we need support check out http://www.saveyourregionalpark.com

    Planning permission is still to be obtained and the more support for the LWFAG the better


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