Wind farms: eyesore or beauty?

Wind farms were in the news this week. UK government ministers clashed over policy towards renewable energy. A Tory energy minister, John Hayes, said we had enough onshore wind farms. His boss, Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, and prime minister David Cameron disagreed and slapped him down. The argument reflected Britain’s uncertain view of the merits of using wind to generate electricity.

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian expressed one view: that wind turbines ruin our most beautiful landscapes. His article brought an impassioned response from people who thought wind turbines enhance, rather than ruin, the countryside. I tend to agree. My heart warms to the sight of a graceful turbine turning in the wind. (We always enjoy seeing the one on the M4 at Reading on the site of the old Courage brewery.) And we were in awe at the sight of the huge collection of turbines in the desert near Palm Springs in California in 2004.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be so keen if it was on my doorstep. But wind turbines strike me as more in keeping with the landscape than mobile phone masts, let alone electricity pylons. They’re also natural descendants of the windmills and watermills that still grace many of our villages. Today’s eyesore is tomorrow’s historic gem.

The better question is whether wind farms make a useful contribution to power generation. That should be the real influence on government policy.

3 thoughts on “Wind farms: eyesore or beauty?

  1. I think the issue is the quantity. I agree with you and think the odd one or two turbines does enhance the landscape and can create dramatic beauty. However, when there are a lot of them (which is what we’ll need for wind to make a significant contribution to the UK’s energy needs) then I think they do become a problem. In West Cumbria local people are used to coal mining and Sellafield so aren’t total ‘nimbies’, but are concerned about the sheer number of turbines, despite initially welcoming them.

  2. I love them – we, too, like the one at Reading, and we also like the ones near us near Highworth that were built as a sort of co=operative by local people. When we are in France, there are several that we look out for to measure our progress – our favourite is the one at the Somme Valley services that also has a nature reserve. And I agree that they are certainly aesthetically more pleaseing than phone masts (although they are getting better) and pylons.

    What would I feel like if there was one near me? We did explore having a small one for us and our neighbours a few years ago, but it was a) very expensive and b) the planning was a nightmare as it was going to be shared – if we’d all wanted to build our own, that would have been much easier.

    However, I think that as a power source they are hugely over-rated. Germany said that they cost more in terms of carbon generation than traditional power as, because they were so unreliable, they had to have a power station as back up for when the turbines weren’t working, and because it was so unpredictable and because it takes ages to power up a power station, the power station had to be generating all the time anyway. Sheer madness!

    Us? we have a generator and a diesel tank for when the power blackouts come in a couple of years becaus of the government’s totally irresponsible power generation policies of the last 15 years. Bring on the nuclear, with sustenables/renewables as top ups – and I’m excited by the Severn Barrage. But don’t let’s fool ourselves that our power can be provided totally (or even mainly) by renewables/sustainables.

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