Wind Turbines
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The Government's plan to dominate hundreds of square miles of Britain's countryside with wind turbines is the centre of a battle rapidly approaching its crisis. This year 30 new schemes have been approved, for turbines supposedly generating 770 megawatts of power - equal to the entire capacity of the 1,165 turbines erected to date. Up to 9,000 turbines are now at different stages of the planning process - and many are far bigger than the majority of I those already built.

The Government is desperately bending the planning laws to get the turbines up because the EU requires us to generate 20 per cent of our power from renewable sources by 2020. Meanwhile, ever more scientists, engineers and conservationists are adding their voices to the argument that wind turbines are ludicrously costly and inefficient and do not bring the ecological benefits they are supposed to achieve anyway.  There are many who warn that the Government is making a catastrophic blunder.

Although I have been professionally concerned by the delusions surrounding wind power for some years, I have recently. become personally involved. I am chairman of a group that opposes the plan for the first giant turbine to surmount the 1,000-foot-high escarpment of the Mendip Hills in Somerset. There are more than 70 similar groups fighting all over Britain, and compared to what they face our threat may seem trifling. There are plans, for example, for 340 turbines up to 400 feet high within 18 miles of Perth; for 500 in the Hebrides; for 22 monsters near Ilfracombe in north Devon, and 26 on Romney Marsh in Kent. However, if we lose our battle there are already plans for more turbines on the Mendips.

We were therefore delighted last week to win the support of the doughtiest anti-wind campaigner of all, the veteran conservationist Prof David Bellamy, who was at Bristol Zoo to talk about his forthcoming book The Battle for Britain's Countryside. He met with some of our campaigners against the backdrop of BruneI's Clifton suspension bridge - which is a full 70 feet lower than the turbine we are fighting on the Mendips.

The statistics demonstrating the futility of wind power now overwhelming.  Electricity from wind is two-and-a-half times more expensive than from conventional sources.  The claims for the amount of power generated by turbines - which consumers already subsidise to the tune of 1.5 billion a year, through higher bills - are wildly exaggerated. On the Government's own admission the output of each turbine,  thanks to the vagaries of the wind, is less than a quarter of "installed capacity" (24.1 per  cent), so that the 1,161 turbines already built produce an average of only 186 megawatts:  a fraction of that produced by one large conventional power station.

The saving in greenhouse gas emissions is minimal:  the 1,165 turbines already built may "displace" 93 tons of CO2  an hour but, for comparison,  five jumbo jets in flight give off 100 tons an hour. And even this notional saving is discounted by the need to keep conventional power stations permanently ticking over, ready to take over for the three quarters of the time when turbines are unable to generate.  

The Government, as deluded by its windmills as Don Quixote, is backed by a strange alliance of ill-informed, sentimental greens and the Wind power companies themselves. The latter cannot believe their luck at a bonanza worth more than 1 billion a year. On the opposing side, led by such eminent conservationists as Prof Bellamy and James Lovelock, is an increasingly clued-up army of critics, who cannot understand why we should  desecrate vast tracts of Britain's most beautiful countryside for what they see as "the scam of the century".

Christopher Booker

Reprinted from the Sunday Telegraph    17 Oct 2004


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Last modified: February 11, 2006