Wind turbines – what do you think?

I do notice them, but they have become familiar now, whereas ten years ago they seemed strange and new.

I can see this bunch from my house, although it requires a bit of neck-stretching and straining to do so. This morning they were whizzing round in the wind (apart from one of them – there’s always one isn’t there?) and shining in the sun.

I was pleased to see them spinning round generating electricity, and I do think that they are interesting to look at and actually rather beautiful. Certainly more beautiful and interesting than the telegraph pole in the same image above.

There seems to be far less angst about wind turbines these days – do you agree or have I got that wrong?

A couple of hours later I was round the other side of these turbines and much closer to them.

If you ever pass along the A14 then these are the ones south of the road east of Kettering, and if you head south on the A6, as I did, they look like this…

What do you think about wind turbines and have your opinions changed at all over the years?

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25 Replies to “Wind turbines – what do you think?”

  1. I've always thought that they are magnificent, but I always liked the large lattice towers striding across the countryside, except where there were lots of them. If they do not disturb wildlife too much, I'm all in favour. I particularly like Donald Trump's offshore turbines near where I live. I chortle every time I cycle past them, until I remember the council has forgotten that he didn't built the huge hotel, didn't built anything which was in accordance even remotely with the approved plans, but is now able to build 500 large houses on the estate. Why? Are we short of house builders who build to plans?
    Anyway, it does not really matter what any of us think. Wind turbines and solar power are the only way forward with subsea links to other countries, That is, unless you belong to this government, who is still convinced that nuclear power is the future, unlike many of the people who can build them.

  2. I quite like them and always have. Mind you, I don’t mind telegraph poles or pylons either in most cases. I suspect many naturalists are the same (not all), whereas landscape lovers and some general environmentalists would disagree. I find the mismatch between the walkers and ramblers who value landscape but who don’t, say, recognise the way those landscapes have become impoverished, and the naturalists who like to see species even in horribly “unnatural” surroundings (including some nature reserves) to be a disappointing split with environmentalism.

  3. I still hate them. I've hated them since I first saw some within sight of the NT windmill at Horsey. Thankfully they have mostly been resisted on land here in Suffolk. I hate them offshore too. Looking out from the north Norfolk heritage coast is like viewing an industrial landscape, not helped by the eyesore that is the Cley visitor centre and car park. And as for the turbines in the Scottish highlands and on peat in the flow country and elsewhere, words fail me.

    We have a planning system so that development is meant to go in the right place. Unfortunately we're not very good at it.

    1. The right place being in somebody else's backyard, I presume? Well, you won't mind if we stick a coal fired power plant in yours then.

      1. Thanks Random. In my wider back yard we have Sizewell B and are likely to have two more reactors - which I support in principle - so here in Suffolk I feel we are doing our bit without littering our beautiful countryside with turbines. (And yes, I have written in support of the RSPB's concerns which I hope very much EDF will fully address.)

        As it happens I can see two lines of pylons from my house and the small ones will have to be replaced with bigger ones if Sizewell goes ahead. I've no objection to that but a lot of people here have! And I'm just back from Minsmere now. I really like the dome on Sizewell B - it looked lovely in the sun seen over the reedbeds and I always find it an oddly comforting sight.

  4. Unsurprisingly there will be a range of opinions on this. I have my own (6kw) turbine on a 12m tower - not quite so intrusive, but visible in the landscape nevertheless. It is interesting the people who are against them don't really notice the millions of telegraph poles - and pylons - strding across the countryside. I rather like the RSPB policy that they are more than welcome in the right place where they don't iompact upon or displace wildlife. The planning system does, of course, ensure that they go in the 'right place' but that place is a matter of opinion, and a planning strategy that you can object to. One thing I've thought recently as more turbines are mooted on clifftops and islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, here in Orkney is that, as many objections are about the 'industrialisation of the landscape', why don't we put them in landscapes that are already industrialised, such as near to towns and cities and, well, industry? They might not be quite as productive as ones on top of hills and mountains but the gains in terms of landscape may well offset the losses.

  5. We tend to poke and prod our sensibilities, in sometimes rational sometimes irrational ways. I can remember, years ago (before the M6) early on a frosty morning, hitch-hiking over Shap Fells seeing the light perfectly on the striding pylons, celebrating them perfectly in that (already man-made) landscape. Sometimes turbines can look as good.

    My pet hate is the low/medium voltage wires shown in the first pic. They are there only because it's more expensive to put them underground. There are many many more in France and there's now a programme to get rid of them. But as clutter in the landscape, they are the worst.

  6. I quite like them.
    But I have an impression, and maybe I'm wrong...hope so!
    That the public generally like them untill it comes to the planning stage.
    Then it seems as if the it's still a good idea...But not on my patch.
    A good idea, but not within our eyeline.
    Guess change is generally difficult.

  7. If the German experience is anything to go by, the number of bats killed might impact the UK populations of some species. It's now beginning to look as if birds might be becoming sensitised to them and less likely to get minced, by giving them a wide berth. Or perhaps the scavengers are getting into the kill zone faster than the counters/researchers. Whatever, we're stuck with them now while we wait for expansion of PV.

  8. I think they look pretty and we should paint the props in a sort of rainbow pattern to make them look more cheerful and a little like the wee spinners you get at the seaside. I don't know what this country has against things looking bright and cheerful, I really don't.

  9. Personally I find wind turbzines a real blot on the landscape and I am sure they are a considerable risk to birds and bats. I think the sooner we can get rid of them the better. I realise that they do help to stem green house gas emissions however I much prefer the solar panels and many more of these should be installed on roof tops. The amount of roof area available but unused is enormous. We also need some clear published figures that compare the electrical performance of panels and turbines over a typical year. Generally the sooner wind turbines can be got rid of the better.

    1. I can help with the question about comparing the performance of solar PVs and wind turbines. The 'capacity factor' of such systems is a very useful measure. It's the actual output as a proportion of the installed capacity if the system were running at 100% of its stated output, 100% of the time. So, our 5kW wind turbine is operating at a capacity factor of 0.33, which means that over the course of a year it will generate around 5 x 0.33 x 24 x 365 kWh of electricity. Our solar PVs, on the other hand, operate at a capacity factor of around 0.10. I've seen capacity factors of 0.40 cited for larger onshore turbines, and even greater than 0.50 for offshore, although the wind industry has tended to be rather over-optimistic about its forecasts in this respect. Either way, you can see that kW for kW a wind turbine is a better investment than solar PVs although the capital cost per kW is at least three times higher. The other problem with solar PVs, of course, is that they don't generate in darkness, when demand may be high. One answer is battery storage, to smooth out the peaks and troughs in demand, but the costs are currently high and there are concerns about the supply of some of the constituent elements, notably lithium and cobalt. Another potential solution is a hybrid system, using both wind and solar. For the record I have such a system (5 kW wind and 10 kW solar with battery storage): it provides 95% of our energy needs, including power to charge our electric car. I've been monitoring bird and bat mortality constantly for the last five years and haven't picked up a single corpse.

      1. The capacity factor for a nuclear or gas fired power station would be close to 100% (only off line for occaisional maintainence or refuelling in the case of nuclear) as well as taking up far less space per unit of energy generated and being needed anyway to provide back up when there is no sun/wind as grid scale storage is currently a pipe dream and about as likely as nuclear fusion. Since we need nuclear/gas as a back up it seems like madness not to use it 24/7 instead of building additional turbines and massively increasing electricity prices which pushes more people into poverty (as an example electricity from a modern gas fired power station has a wholesale price of aprox. £50/Mwh, whereas a lot of offshore wind farms have been garaunteed prices between £100 and £150/Mwh) I suggest that any one in favour of renewables because of some green ideology spends next winter choosing between heating and eating.
        Some of our remotest and most beautiful landscapes in Scotland have been destroyed in the name of "green" energy without any comment from so called environmental groups such as greenpeace or friends of the earth, whereas I would hope they would have something to say if any other developer proposed destroying hundreds of acres of relatively pristine "wilderness".
        Given that on a good day we might just get 30% of our electricity from wind, and quite often it is still less than 10%, and electricity accounts for roughly 30% of total energy usage (heating and transport being 2 of the other major uses) there is simply no way we can meet the goals of the 2008 climate change act (80% reduction in green house gas emissions by 2050) without a massive increase in nuclear and a massive investment in some alternative to gas central heating. At best wind turbines are an expensive irrelevance, at worst they are a solution that doesn't work to a problem that doesn't exist. In other words we have trashed a lot of our natural heritage for very little or no environmental benefit, merely to make some already rich landowners even richer, a lot of poor people (especially pensioners) even poorer, and some well meaning but ultimately misguided "environmentalists" feel slightly better.
        In short I don't think there is anything I hate more than renewable energy.

        1. Utterly spot on, MD.

          As for the 80% emissions reduction by 2050 - a Royal Society conference some years ago discussed this in relation to agriculture. Summing up, the eminent Chair for the day estimated that there was "Not a hope" of meeting this completely out-of-a-hat ambition, but that "we" would have a damn good try and show the World how to do it even though there wasn't a hope.

          What we have shown the World is our ability to lie blatantly about success in reducing emissions by moving our production and its pollution to other countries, doing nothing for total emissions while obliterating jobs at home, robbing the poor, and promoting false accounting, or fraud as it is better known, as a legitimate means of carrying out business as usual. We lead the World in virtue-signalling stupidity.

          I'm off to buy a Gilet Jaune before B&Q run out of them

        2. Well, of course we're all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. A gas-powered generator has a capacity factor of nearly 100%: really? Wind turbines are a solution to a problem that doesn't exist: really? Really? But in a way arguments about data miss the point because, as this response has demonstrated, reactions to issues such as this tend to be driven by emotions rather than cold scientific reason.

          But I'm left pondering that sentence: "I don't think there is anything I hate more than renewable energy." I've just been out to a lambing, and I've watched the sun setting behind our small wind turbine, and I've been thinking that I'm happy we made this investment. We manage to generate virtually all of the power we need from just over a hectare of land, and we won't be leaving any toxic residue for our our grandchildren to have to deal with. And I wonder how anyone could be brought to the verge of apoplexy by the sight of something like a solar panel on a roof.

  10. Hideous, if perhaps necessary in some places, for now, as we seem to be so bad at energy conservation. Hardly compatible with 'a green and pleasant land' though are they.

  11. Mark

    We still suffer from the age-old maxim: "Not in my back yard, Sir". It's so sad. Here we are with our smartphones and soon-to-be electric fleet of cars and yet too few people give any thought to how the bloody hell we're going to generate all that electricity. Personally, subject to any significant noise issues, I'd integrate more of them into the landscape, including more micro generation.

    Take care.


  12. I'm sure if renewable power generators whare allowed to sell to the local communities affected at a much reduced rate, objections would disolve overnight. Unfortunately the government don't allow this unless it's a community based project. Climate change is going to put the current system under great pressure in future years & I feel local renewable generation will help keep rural communities connected. There's a genuine concern that in the wrong places turbines can affect migration & other wildlife but in the right place I don't object.

  13. I like them, quite happy that they now are part of my view across southern Cambridgeshire. They have to be in the right places ecologically, though onshore or offit, and the amount of good research which has been done means we have a far better understanding of how to get it right now. A couple of years ago took a day-time ferry to the Netherlands, and its course is between 2 blocks of the off-shore ones - they were amazing to cruise past as well.

    Interesting observation recently re poles for wires (Phone/electricity)... we spent 5 days cycling round the Ebro delta area of Catalunya, and nay of the lines of roadside posts for wires through the arable and rice field landscape had clusters of boxes on for nesting - bat boxes and bird boxes. What a brilliant way to provide holes in a treeless landscape for insectivores to consume the large humbers of flyign insects which must be theer when the rice fields are wet.... why cant we have those, too!

  14. I think that it is important to try and maintain the beauty of the landscape as well as the wildlife in it (which to my mind are a large component of that beauty) although I don't personally find wind turbines to be visually objectionable.

    In an ideal world we would have no wind turbines and thus no risk to birds or bats or impact on the aesthetics of the landscape but so far no-one has come up with a way of harnessing energy for our use that is without environmental impact. As M Parry comments above we should do more to use energy less wastefully but we have proven to be pretty poor at that (though great improvements have been made) and with the best will in the world we will continue to need large quantities of energy to be captured in one form or another. I certainly want my local hospitals to continue to have a reliable supply of electricity and I expect my computer to spring to life when I press the button; I guess everyone else does too. We therefore need to accept that there will be some environmental impact from our demand and try to ensure that as far as possible this is minimised.

    Solar power has significant potential, particularly if placed on the vast acreage of factory and warehouse roofing that seems to be available (but lets not forget that there are environmental impacts associated with the manufacture and end-of-life disposal of panels) but it seems unlikely to be able to provide the whole answer at least with our current capability for storing energy). Hydro and tidal power can potentially provide huge amounts of power but can be ecologically devastating. At small scales though they can perhaps make a valuable contribution with acceptable levels of impact. Biomass, we have seen, has become a false 'green' technology in many ways with crops grown specifically for fuel displacing food production (and hence wildlife through knock-on land demand) and high levels of input off-setting much of the claimed carbon benefit. Again though, at appropriate scales and with a strict controls on feedstock (i.e. genuine waste/by-products from other activities) it may be able to make a positive contribution. By the same token, wind turbines though not a perfect energy solution, have a contribution to make.

    We have unpalatable choices to make; we cannot eliminate all environmental impact from energy capture whatever technologies we opt for but have to try and ensure that we design, locate and operate systems as carefully as possible to minimise this impact.

    1. "hospitals to continue to have a reliable supply of electricity"

      By-pass pumps can be kept going using peristaltic treadmill pumps and a relay team of trained hamsters which are more reliable than wind and solar but need constant poking to stop them hibernating

  15. I prefer them to pollution and black lung but wish they came with some stronger planning guidelines - such as having to plant native woodland around them and their access roads. Round here they get planted on conifer clearfell, which then gets re-planted around them. Looks ugly and not good for wildlife - the windfarm companies would be doing themselves a favour...

  16. Wind-up solution

  17. As the blades can't be recycled at present and go into land fill and various videos of raptors colliding with said blades I would rather they concentrate on solar pannel farms.


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