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".
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