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.