What are the main objections to wind farms?

OBJECTORS to further wind farm expansion in the Borders point out that the 3,500 wind turbines spread across the UK did not prevent us having to import electricity from France during one of the coldest winters on record.

With electricity demand at record levels during those freezing, but windless, weeks around Christmas, many turbine blades were just not turning and many of us had electricity thanks to French nuclear reactors.

And now some of the countries which were in the European vanguard of wind power generation have called time on any further development.

Holland recently became the first European nation to abandon its EU renewable energy target, announcing it intends slashing its annual subsidy to the industry by billions of euros.

The Danes have built more wind turbines per head of population than anyone, but with the highest electricity prices in Europe have ended up importing much of their power from abroad. Objectors to further wind farm expansion say the case for more turbines is built on three major falsehoods.

Firstly that turbines are efficient. Campaigners claim that talking about turbines only in terms of their capacity rather than what they actually produce is misleading as wind is constantly varying in speed, which means the output of turbines averages out at around at a quarter of their capacity.

The second is the claim that wind turbines are not hugely expensive ways to produce electricity and that they would be built even if companies were not guaranteed massive subsidies from the government.

The third falsehood, they allege, is that wind farms are making a vital contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Not true say campaigners, who claim that the CO2 reduction achieved by wind turbines is so miniscule that one large windfarm saves a lot less in a year than is given off over the same period by one Boeing 747 airliner flying daily between Britain and America.

Add to this the large amounts of CO2 discharged into the atmosphere as a result of all the mining and smelting of metals used in turbine construction, cement production, associated road building, and any benefit is lost.

Professor Jack Ponton, who taught in the engineering department at Edinburgh University, chairs the Save Lauderdale campaign. Protestors in Lauder have described the growing number of wind farms around the town as akin to General Custer’s last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Professor Ponton says nothing that people in Scotland do in terms of renewable energy will make the slightest difference to the problem of climate change.

“You have to look at it in terms of the global situation. Greenhouse gas emission rates are going up, not because of anything that is happening in Europe, but rather the continued industrialisation of countries such as China and India.

“There are two main reasons to oppose further windfarms specifically in Lauderdale and the Borders. Firstly, saturation and cumulative visual impact. The Borders has more installed megawatts of wind turbines per capita than anywhere else in Scotland.

“If any of the five more wind farms which we know are on the books gets the go ahead, going from Soutra to St Boswells one will never be out of sight of a wind turbine.

“The Corsbie Moor/Legerwood proposal is particularly intrusive as it would let the developers into a previously turbine-free sector to the south-east of Lauder, and is highly visible.

“Secondly, intrusion of large tubines into settled areas. No-one lives on top of Soutra but there are at least 60 properties within 2km of the Corsbie Moor turbine sites. Girthgate and Cathpair would put about 40 huge turbines 3km due west of Lauder.

“It is now well established, although denied by the developers, that anyone living within one mile of large turbines will suffer at some point from noise, which as well as loss of amenity – you cannot bear to sit in your garden – causes sleep disturbance leading to mental and physical health problems.

“There have been repeated complaints from people living near Longpark and Toddleburn which SBC Environmental Health, who are responsible for dealing with noise pollution, seem to be unable to deal with. And these are in relatively unpopulated areas.”

Professor Ponton said there was also the issue of loss of property value. “Again the developers claim that there is no evidence of loss of property value near wind farms. There is indeed little evidence. This is because there are, as far as I can tell, no sales, since no one will buy property very near a wind farm. I estimate that Corsbie Moor could knock up to £4million off property values in the immediate area.”

And writing in The Herald newspaper last month, Sir Donald Miller, chairman of Scottish Power from 1982 to 1992, said it was becoming increasingly clear that the Scottish Government’s concentration on renewable energy sources to the exclusion of more reliable and economic sources such as nuclear was little short of what he called “disastrous”.

He stated: “No wind or marine energy sources can be relied on to provide power when it is needed. Wind and marine need nearly 100 per cent back-up from conventional generators.”

And Sir Donald also pointed out that the cost of onshore wind to the consumer was more than four times the cost of energy from conventional or nuclear sources.