In my backyard

Recently the Daily Telegraph reported on windfarm developments in the county where I live – Northamptonshire.  Apparently we are going to become the windfarm capital of the UK although the Telegraph only mentions 53 turbines and suggests the country (presumably England in this case) is considering applications for only 94 in total.  That doesn’t sound like very many to me.

, via Wikimedia Commons”]I can already see 10 turbines from my house – in the distance – and those 10 turbines do tend to dominate the landscape a little as it’s surprising from how many different places one can see them.  But, as I’ve said before, I don’t mind them at all.  Indeed, I rather like them.

Would another 50 turbines being built in my county of residence upset me? Not much really – provided that they are making a real contribution to replacing more-polluting fossil fuels.

On landscape grounds I object much more strongly to the massive and ugly boxes that have sprung up locally which are storage and distribution centres.  You can see these along the A45 east of Wellingborough where they assault the eye and block what was a lovely view down into the Nene Valley, by the A45 in Raunds and further along the same road towards Peterborough where it crosses the A14 at Thrapston (and there are others).  In landscape terms I’d accept a few turbines in return for each of these boxes that disapeared if such a trade were possible.

I recognise all the place names in the Telegraph article.  I really have thought about the impact of these turbines on the local landscape.  In some cases turbines might certainly detract from the view but that might well be a price that we all have to pay to get a greener energy mix.  In an article I wrote in The Field some time ago I suggested that anyone who objected to a windfarm development should have to disclose their own carbon footprint.  It was said with my tongue in my cheek but I wonder whether those who object to this type of development are doing their bit for reducing their own climate footprint? Or whether they have any plan at all for reducing the future impacts of climate change? or whether they even believe there is a problem?

It’s vaguely interesting that it is the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, who has one of the applications to build turbines on his land but the general point is that these plans are not imposed on us by government they are the wishes of local people.  Some local land owners see an opportunity to make money by putting up wind turbines and those local people clearly see the benefits (perhaps largely to themselves) of turbine construction in their local landscape as being a good thing.  I don’t remember hearing the CLA or NFU being very outspoken about wind turbines and, of course, it will usually be their members who benefit most from their building.

I remember talking to a local farmer about his shelved plans to build a turbine or two on his land – there was an outcry from his neighbours in his small village and he decided to drop the plans as it all became too much of a hassle.  When we talk about local people’s views there are always likely to be two local sides to every  issue rather than just one and I think that we might discover that in how the new planning regime plays out.

The need for wind turbines is driven by global and national, not just local, issues – climate change and energy security. And the impacts of wind turbines are bound to be uneven geographically and affect different people differently even locally.  The resolution of those conflicts is the role of energy policy, planning policy, transport policy and of competing political philosophies.  Are you involved in politics – you should be?



25 Replies to “In my backyard”

  1. I agree that wind turbines are generally quite acceptable visually and far from the most ugly things we impose upon the landscape. I accept that others may hold a different view on that but the problem is that we consume energy voraciously as a society and none of the ways yet devised of supplying that energy is free of negative side effects and most have considerably worse effects than wind power.
    It is important that any ‘low carbon’ method installed genuinely has a net benefit in overall greenhouse emissions and, for wind, the issue is the need to maintain ‘spinning reserve’ at fossil fuel fired stations to cover the times when the wind is not blowing. For opponents of wind energy this wipes out all the benefit whilst advocates maintain that wind generated electicity does have a net benefit. I find that it is difficult to find where the truth lies between these two positions and would be grateful if anyone could point to credible, non partisan analysis on this point.
    Irrespective of how our energy is generated we can all do our bit by ensuring that we avoid using energy wastefully. I wonder how much carbon is emitted simply to heat the garden and light up the night sky?

  2. Jonathan, try this: . This is a UK parliament report from June 2011 which gives a pretty good overview.

    Mark I agree with you. Wind turbines can be easily taken down after 25 years leaving a very small footprint, other power stations are completely the opposite, potentially remaining in the environment for 100s of years. I’m a firm believer that all electricity should be generated as locally as possible, using appropriate renewable techniques. Naturally there should be safeguards for particular sites of value for wildlife, landscape and cultural artifacts. There are a great deal of bogus hysterical claims made against wind. Managing electricity demand is a complex business requiring a mixture of methods but the most important one is to use less where ever possible.

    1. Not quite “completely the opposite”. Hanging around for 100’s of years may be an advantage. I understand there is a move to retain an old one somewhere down south and turn it into football stadium and another is used as a gallery of all things! I’m sure the imagination of readers could suggest future uses for Sizewell, Torness and the rest?

      1. With anthropegenic extinction rates rocketing it may be that the long term benefits of the crumbling nuclear programme will be to increase mutation rates of those species left through dissemination of ionising radiation into the environment. The variability engendered will spark adaptive radiation and new species. A virtuous circle if ever there was one.

  3. I do believe there is an opportunity for a new acronym here, based on -imby, but you will need some care choosing the first word.

    On the localism front: residents of Glyncorrwg must be surprised to find that Vattenhall is so concerned for their welfare.

  4. Have no problem with Turbines as long as sighted where they are not a nuisance with noise or shadows by being sighted too close to houses,as long as they are going to provide competitive electricity and not kill birds think that to see them is no worse than lots of other developments and I think that the opponents of them if they had to have the choice of no electric or Turbines then the answer is obvious.

  5. So why the objections ? Wind farms have become one of those things communities automatically object to – just like conifer plantations. My views reflect the others here – a bit split between quite exciting & beautiful or a bit of a blot – probably depends on my mood on the day !

    But having been involved with a couple of applications I think i know what’s gone wrong – the spectacular clumsiness and ignorance of many of the developers who deserve all the opposition they’ve been facing – do any of them have any sense of the environment or other people’s feelings for that matter ? Whilst noone complains because its jobs for the boys in conservation it really isn’t good enough to clump in and try and blast your way through by hiring all sorts of consultants. Like, i suspect, HS2, what we’ve seen is unmitigated engineers on the loose – only interested in grid connections, wind speeds (Northants ? on wonders !) and so on.

    The planning system doesn’t help: it really doesn’t seem to reward up front effort & thought – and so many developers seem to just slump back on minimum standards & arguing their way through a pretty standard list of objections – which are usually quite oblique to what is really bothering the people the development is being inflicted upon.

  6. I’ll look forward to a follow up post when you have grasped the full concept of what the windfarm industry has in store for this country. It appears you base all your opinions and views on what you can see from your car window.

  7. So we agree that spending our money to give to farmers yet again is good ?
    I think is abhorrent personally !!
    Now I’m sounding like a socialist of which I’m not.

    1. Andy your comment makes no sense. Farmers are not being given money. Landowners are being paid rent for the use of their land. The exchange of value for cash is the basis of our society, what is abhorrent about it? No doubt the house in which you live was once farmland, someone paid the landowner for it. Is that abhorrent?

  8. Andy—-you are quite within your right to buy some land and try to get turbines on it and grab loads of cash if you think farmers always get easy cash.

  9. Farmers are not being given money ?
    Whom pays for the turbines ?
    Are you bunny huggers so bloody nieve ?
    You need a bitch slap and wake up to the real world

    1. Andy you seem to be unable to distinguish between a gift and a payment for value. The turbines are paid for by the company that builds the windfarm using money borrowed from a bank. They rent the land from the landowner. The wind company sells the electricity produced to the electricity companies at a guaranteed price. They sell it to the public. Effectively we pay for the turbines through our electric bills, but the same was true for true for nuclear power which we also paid for through our taxes. If you haven’t noticed, we pay for everything, thats how our real world works.

  10. Dairy farmer borrows £1.5M to build anaerobic digester. Gas generated burnt in a gert lush v-12 ICE driving a genny, sells leccy into grid for pennies, but ROCS pay back handsomely, and it will be soon all be paid off, pure profit thereafter. Farmer discovers that silage produces more gas than slurry, without the work. More ROCs! More money! Sells cows. More money! Re-sets alarm clock to more civilised time. More happy! Farm no longer produces any food, but hey, Tesco can get it from France, Germany, Azerbaihan, whoever’s selling, food miles no object, neither is exporting our own pollution, because the bottom line is – we’re on the way to meeting our renewable energy obligations! Yee Ha!

    Alice departs via looking-glass for her next project, a PV installation on a gert shed by the A45, which will almost produce enough power to drive a wind turbine round to make it look as if it’s working. The shortfall will come from AD plants, now running on rapeseed oil, much more energy-dense than grass and maize silage, releasing vast areas of farmland for nature reserves. Alice’s journey is interrupted by a call on her i-Glass. It’s Tesco, complaining that the Chinese have snaffled up all the surplus milk, so there is none for the Tea Party, sorry. Alice tries to wake from her dream, but she can’t, and realises that that she wasn’t asleep at all. Sadly, she departs for some rain-forest, intent on clearing it to produce some soybeans to feed to Chinese pigs so they can be exported to Britain to feed the starving serfs, but finds her way blocked by a Tesco van and a bunch of paramilitary thugs from the World Werewolf Fund and the RSPB. Alice sinks into a slough of despond, wondering why she made this up, and decides to get herself sectioned.

  11. Couple of right bunny killers those two.Notice neither say it is so good they are going to buy or rent some land and get on Alice’s bandwagon.
    They must be much brighter than they sound,bitter I would say,Socialist?,worse than that.

  12. @Peter Jones
    “Anybody read Bellamy and Duchamp’s open letter on the subject?”

    I have now – thanks for the pointer. I suppose you can’t really have an NDPB which works in opposition to the wishes of its funding executive – so perhaps it should go. Perhaps they should all go. It’s just corruption of process, surpassing anything Milo Minderbinder could ever devise.

  13. Ok enviro experts you just tell me whom funds these white elephants !!

  14. What I would like to know is are we actually burning any less oil/gas/coal as a result of having all these windfarms? If so how much? I have my biomass boiler, solar thermal and solar pv but remain to be convinced by wind. And the developers are all a bunch of absolute shysters. Local communities are just an irritant to be ridden roughshod over in my experience. The loss of more and more of our wild areas to development is a loss that is unaccounted for in the decision-making. Suggest that Mark take a trip up to Scotland and view the moorland south of Glasgow. Also the footprint of a windfarms is a lot more than the concrete foundations of the turbines.

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