Wind farms: love them or hate them

Donald Trump recently described wind turbines as "inefficient monstrosities", while a recent study looking at the impact of wind power on household energy bills claimed that there is a risk that annual CO2 emissions could be greater under a "wind scenario" compared with gas.


There is a storm of confusion and misunderstanding around wind energy, but does this justify all the bad press?

Regarding the comments from Mr Trump, I think it is safe to say he has a few personal reasons for his unfavourable views on wind.

A planned wind farm off the Aberdeenshire coast will apparently impact, or “ruin”, his newly-opened golf course, while the recent study on energy bills was carried out by an economist who, along with many others, feel the economy will suffer under a wind energy strategy.

In terms of efficiency, many have the view that because wind does not blow at a constant rate all the time we will still require a back-up, such as fossil fuel power stations that will take up the energy slack.

These power plants cannot be turned on and off when the wind is up or down, which means most are running at full capacity, creating the same amount of CO2 pollution.   

The cries and screams from the economists and celebrities are certainly making an impression, with many slating the high cost of installing wind turbines and suggesting that the renewable energy generated from wind will not be worth the investment.

Others, like Trump, are also concerned that wind turbines across the UK’s coasts will affect tourism and destroy our sea views.

Not everyone has this view. Many are unfazed by the apparent “eyesores”, and actually celebrate the architectural beauty if it is helping the environment. However, a percentage of those previously pro-wind have picked up on the concerns and are slowly becoming ‘worried wind efficiency’ converts.

Another celebrity/sportsman, former Manchester United and England footballer Gary Neville has been fighting on the side of wind and was recently at the forefront of this debate when his plans to erect a 100ft wind turbine had to be scrapped because of disapproval from local residents.

The wind battles continue across the UK and the pros and cons keep getting blown into the air confusing more and more people. Another debate sits around “wind turbine exclusion zones”, which looks at the distance between turbines and homes and tourism sites.

There are even specialised campaign groups being set-up to effectively fight against potential wind farms. No-Tiree-Array (NTA), for example, is a campaign group protesting against one energy company’s plans to install Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm because it may impact the local marine life.

What is interesting is that this method of generating renewable energy is receiving almost as much bad press as the shale gas boom.

Hydraulic fracturing, which many claim increases toxic and radioactive water pollution and could be responsible for earthquakes, has received a barrage of protests in the UK ever since two (minor) earthquakes were reported in Blackpool were apparently caused by the shale gas extraction process.

It’s interesting that wind, a natural source that does not carry the loathed face of shale gas, is picking up speed in the protesting race.

Leigh Stringer

Topics: Energy efficiency & low-carbon
Tags: CO2 | Donald Trump | energy bills | gas | Hydraulic Fracturing | manchester united | offshore | offshore wind | Scotland | Shale gas | water | Water pollution | wind energy | wind turbines
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