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Turbines are 'ugly, noisy and devalue our homes'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 02, 2012

Fullabrook Wind Farm

Fullabrook Wind Farm

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The Government appeared in disarray over its wind farm policy last night after the Energy Minister and the Prime Minister clashed over the development of new turbines.

Conservative Energy Minister John Hayes said it was "extraordinary" that wind turbines had been allowed "to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes".

But his words earned a public rebuke from his boss, Lib Dem Energy Secretary Ed Davey, before David Cameron weighed into the row, insisting the Government's policy remained unchanged but that there should be a "debate" on the issue.

Mr Hayes' comments were initially welcomed in the Westcountry, which has been on the frontline of the debate over the controversial technology.

But hope turned to confusion as frantic efforts by the Lib Dem coalition partners attempted to stamp on his views. Caroline Harvey, secretary of the Two Moors Campaign which has been fighting applications for four wind farms just south of Exmoor National Park, said of Mr Hayes: "At last someone is speaking out.

"These things are still being foisted on local populations despite the express wishes of the Government."

She added: "All these things wouldn't be so bad if at the end of the day the turbines were going to do some good, but they won't.

"They harm the environment and they harm people living near them for absolutely no benefit whatsoever."

More than 20 years ago, the country's first commercial wind farm was installed near Delabole in North Cornwall. In the following years, dozens of wind farms have been proposed, prompting an often polarised debate over subsidies, their ability to generate electricity and their environmental credentials.

There are now nine, large scale wind farms in Cornwall and one in Devon with dozens of small scale developments. Other projects are still in the planning process.

Regen SW was set up to help develop the renewable energy industry in the region. Its chief executive Merlin Hyman said wind energy still had an important role to play in future although new projects were likely to be smaller and community led.

But he said Mr Hayes's comments were "irresponsible" and only served to undermine confidence in the wider renewables industry.

"The Tory party clearly feels it needs to play to its base," Mr Hyman said. "That is a very irresponsible way to behave in Government.

"We are looking at the future of energy and there are some very big decisions to make in terms of how we go forward.

"We are going to need private sector investment and those investors are going to need a clear, consistent Government policy."

Mr Hayes was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron in last month's reshuffle. The Tory energy minister had been ordered not to deliver the remarks in a speech on Tuesday night but they were obtained instead for publication by newspapers.

In comments apparently cut from a draft of Mr Hayes's speech, he said: "We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can't single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.

"We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in.

"We need to understand communities' genuine desires. We will form our policy in the future on the basis of that, not on a bourgeois left article of faith based on some academic perspective."

He added: "If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of it will not get through and will be rejected. Even if a minority of what's in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target. I'm saying enough is enough."

At Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron told MPs: "There has been no change towards renewable energy.

"Let me explain – we have got a big pipeline of onshore and offshore wind projects that are coming through. We are committed to those, but all parties are going to have to have a debate in this House and outside about what happens once those targets are met."

Landscape ‘has become a pincushion’

Opposition to onshore wind farms has little to do with Nimbyism and more to do with protecting our countryside, says Robin Hogg, chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Devon.

CPRE Devon fully supports renewable energy that is efficient, contributes to keeping the lights on, reduces carbon emissions and does not despoil the countryside in the process. The reality has proved to be very different. Both landowners and farmers understandably see an opportunity to farm the lavish government subsidies that are paid for the generation of renewables, and who can blame them?

In this dash for subsidies we have faced a tsunami of planning applications, for both wind turbines and solar panels, that threatens to overwhelm local planning authorities. It has certainly produced a storm of help requests to CPRE Devon from worried citizens who suddenly find their homes threatened by wind turbine blight or their tourist businesses jeopardised by huge changes to the pristine landscape on which they depend.

CPRE Devon’s view has always been to assess each planning application on its merits. We are not a Nimby organisation and we have made no comment either way on numerous small applications that clearly have a real benefit to the farmer or home owner. We do challenge large scale wind farms or huge turbine applications which threaten the landscape, produce unwelcome and potentially dangerous noise and endanger the ecology of the proposed site.

Initially, the appearance of these wind turbines was generally accepted as a “good idea” by many of the people uninvolved, but the cumulative effect of more and more of these turbines is turning Devon and Cornwall into a pincushion, where the value of some people’s houses has been reduced to the extent that councils have started to lower the council tax band of those who are badly affected.

It would be different if these devices made a real contribution to our national requirement to keep the lights on. It is common knowledge that they are intermittent, and the difficulties in feeding their energy into the National Grid reduce much of the potential that wind energy might have. Were the true costs of this energy to be identified on our electricity bills, many citizens would say enough is enough and demand either a reduction in these subsidies or an end to wind turbine installations.

Recognising their growing unpopularity, developers are now promoting “community wind turbine projects”. These are often little more than an investment opportunity for those who can afford it, with the turbine blight being outsourced to others in the neighbourhood.

As more and more of these turbines appear, the communities affected are combining to oppose them on grounds that have little to do with pure Nimbyism. Many see these unwelcome structures ruining our landscape and a way of life prized by locals and visitors. They question whether this is a price worth paying for a form of “green energy” that might sound good but in reality makes an inefficient and insignificant contribution to our energy needs.

Government must overcome its differences to give a clear policy

Energy Minister John Hayes is misreading the public mood regarding wind farms, argues Merlin Hyman, chief executive of renewable energy agency Regen SW, who says what is needed is investment and more consultation on how communities can benefit from wind power.

Developing new energy generation is about long term investments.

As we face up to some tough decisions on where we get our energy from in the future, the first duty of government is to provide a clear and consistent policy framework against which investment decisions on energy infrastructure can be made.

The split within the coalition on the role of wind power is, therefore, unhelpful as it creates uncertainty and added risk for investors. This translates eventually to higher energy costs.

In attacking wind power John Hayes, the energy minister, is misreading the public mood. As recently as October 23, a poll for the Sunday Times found 55% of people think we should be trying to use more wind power compared to 40% for nuclear and 32% support for shale gas.

This is in line with the experience I find talking to communities across the Westcountry.

In an uncertain world, most people recognise it is simply common sense to make the most of the excellent natural wind and other renewable energy resources we have here in the region, rather than relying on fossil fuels from uncertain parts of the world. Volatile fossil fuel bills are costing us dearly, between 2004 and 2010 dual fuel bills rose by £455, of which £382 was due to soaring gas prices.

Indeed, many communities, such as Totnes and Ladock, are actively involved in developing wind power and providing local revenue streams. Regen’s Communities for Renewables initiative is supporting more to develop their own plans. Cornwall Council is also developing schemes on its own land. This will help some of the £1 billion Cornwall spends on energy be reinvested locally.

The Government’s actual policies to develop renewables are broadly sensible and, despite all the noise, have not changed. Wind power receives the lowest subsidy of any renewable electricity technology and this will, rightly, drop further over the coming months. Government policy recognises that wind power is a mature technology that is now playing a significant role in a diversified mix of electricity generation.

The government is now consulting on how to ensure communities benefit more from wind turbines – again this is right and overdue. I have been asked to sit on an advisory group to support this work and will be pressing for support for local communities that want to generate renewable energy.

Next week the Government will announce some key decisions in its new Energy Bill on how it will encourage investment in low carbon energy technology. It is important that the coalition overcomes its differences and provides the transparent, long term policy framework we need. With this in place we have in the region great companies, skilled people and engaged communities who, together, can develop the clean, secure, renewable energy we need for the future.

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  • Jim_Hunt  |  November 08 2012, 1:14PM

    Hi Cottage Farm, I was just about to remark on how these debates always seem to go very quiet when some real science gets discussed, when you arrive and make some interesting points! Sticking with the title of the original "opinion piece" for the moment, apparently David Attenborough thinks wind farms are "beautiful". What do you make of the allegations that Fullabrook is noisier in practice than its developers said it would be in theory?

  • Cottage Farm Organics  |  November 07 2012, 9:18AM

    The best and very readable summary report on this subject is entitled 'Common concerns about wind power' by Centre for Sustainable Energy, which references 174 peer-reviewed scientific papers on 13 aspects of wind turbine concerns. It can be found at the Transition North Cornwall website (http://tinyurl.com/6a6z3zl), section Learning Resources, 3 pages down or you can just Google the title. In the meantime, let me just mention: • Wind turbines repay their investment in CO2 in between three and nine months • Research shows that tourist are largely happy to visit areas with wind turbines • Wind turbines are virtually inaudible. Regulations ensure that neighbours will hear not more than 35 decibels, which is half the noise your fridge produces right in your kitchen! • Wind turbines kill about 0.0001 per cent of all the birds and bats that man-made structures kill. Their effect on the bird and bat population is imperceptible and about 100,000 times less than cars, windows in buildings, fertilisers and agri chemicals. • Combination of wind turbines and PV panels produces energy on just about every single day of the year. Adding AD plants and energy storage to the system solves the intermittency issue of renewable energy. • Wind turbines are some of the most beautiful, graceful and pleasing structures ever built by man. I am all for them and for doing everything in our power to safeguard Cornwall and the whole planet for future generations, rather than destroying it for the sake of personal aesthetic objections to wind turbines.

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  • Phil_lip  |  November 04 2012, 5:04PM

    This bit 'Just re-read the participants and it was 33 and 32 near to the turbines, and 23 and 15 further away in the relevant distance bands, does this not strike anyone as weighted,' Should have been 'Just re-read the participants and it was 33 (near)and 32(far and 23(near) and 15(far) in each site at the relevant distance bands.......' Apologies for my error as was reading on one screen and typing on the other.

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  • Phil_lip  |  November 04 2012, 4:38PM

    Just re-read the participants and it was 33 and 32 near to the turbines, and 23 and 15 further away in the relevant distance bands, does this not strike anyone as weighted, then you also have this (personally I love it) '(both self-assessed and diagnosed by a physician)' and '(both over-the-counter and prescription drugs)' This is extremely poor because self assessment of ones own medical condition should not be an allowed factor, especially as the questions and letter of the study are not known and it should have been checked by a panel of medical professionals in relevant health fields concerned talking to each participant in a controlled environment away from their home to be compared to the questionnaire they filled out at home. Making sure work is done to a high standard is always important and reading this report it is something I would expect to see from a bunch of GCSE students that wanted to scrape through their coursework.

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  • Phil_lip  |  November 04 2012, 4:22PM

    Yes Jim let us look at the actual study, it is an awful piece of work and I will tell you why, it does not have the original letter and accompanying questions that was sent to the individuals for starters, then it is only a study of 32 people and the demographics are not the same (except age being within a year, or as a statistician would say within half a decade, ie 30-35, 36-40; in this case 56-60) I haven't even started to look at the content of the graphs and associated data, of which there are only 3 and they used SAS that could output a lot more relevant analysis than that. Let me get a cuppa and I will go through the rest, but if this is a university level analysis it is extremely poor as there is no associated medical study on anyone from each of the 2 groups being taken into a controlled environment. As an environmental scientist I would be extremely wary of this journal publication as well, never heard of it and it appears to be open to anyone publishing anything without an initial peer review by the editors, so it is more like a dumping ground for any work anyone has, even 10 year olds with no relevant training.

  • flobberdob1  |  November 04 2012, 3:49PM

    Humans want to over populate the planet with their own species is the problem. If they were happy with keeping their numbers to a sustainable level then we wouldn't need to build so many means to generate electricity .

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  • Jim_Hunt  |  November 04 2012, 1:54PM

    I'm doing well here. My two most recent posts are now first and second on the "worst rated" list. I guess I shouldn't have had the temerity to mention "global warming"? Let's try for the hat trick! Since we now seem to be discussing The Telegraph's interpretation of peer reviewed scientific research, here's the original paper to which they refer: http://tinyurl.com/windnoyz Here's another interesting piece recently published in The Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/6qkjzrd "A hugely-anticipated concert in tribute to songwriters Stock, Aitken and Waterman in Hyde Park in London was cancelled because of water-logging. It had been due to feature a reunion of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan!" Here's the original research by Dr. Jennifer Francis to which The Telegraph refers: http://tinyurl.com/arctamp Meanwhile as we speak there have been four red flood warnings issued for South West England, along with 19 amber flood alerts: http://tinyurl.com/ppovw7 and according to the BBC "Three inches of snow falls in the west of England": http://tinyurl.com/c8pp96o I could go on, but I won't. I'm sure that little lot is more than enough to ensure I get to the top of the table in no time flat!

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  • Phil_lip  |  November 04 2012, 11:43AM

    The problem with the article is that it does not say where the second group lived, they could be on a mountain top with one road in and out and the next nearest town over 50 miles away in the US and they are obviously going to get a better nights sleep. If this much stink is being brought up around wind turbines, what about power lines as it is well known they create a hum but are even worse that turbines because it is constant, then you have the magnetic fields they give off and the way that disrupts the electrical fields of our whole bodies as well as the electrical balance in our brain. Why not start campaigning against this as the planning laws that were put in place over 50 years ago when they were built did not have the understanding of how electrical and magnetic fields affect the human body and mind as they do now. Then you have the 50Hz in the house, again something that is detrimental to human health, the more you draw on that with all the electrical gizmos you have in the house the more you unbalance the finely tuned electrical fields that have taken billions of years to evolve into us. As for turbines, no they are not perfect, but then again neither is tidal because as yet we do not know what the effect of this on a large scale is going to have on the natural erosion and sedimentation and currents that make up the coastline's marine environment; yet having a combined power generation of many small scale parts we can and would stop the need to pollute the atmosphere with coal/gas generation which has a far greater health impact on everyone (few thousand in immediate vicinity from heavier particles then everyone else from finer) rather than a small few in the locality of one turbine/farm.

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  • roger_angove  |  November 04 2012, 9:12AM

    There's an interesting piece about the health effects of turbines in today's Telegraph: http://tinyurl.com/aaamc85

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  • robocop1982  |  November 04 2012, 4:16AM

    look at it this way in 100 years you ain't gonna be around anyway

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