Wind farms: love ’em or hate ’em?

I promised one of my commentators that I’d write a blog post about wind farms. This is perhaps against my better judgement since there is sure to be a heated discussion in the comments but I am not usually one to shy away from a good debate.  So here goes.

Why do wind farms generate so much controversy? They are just another source of power with which to light our homes and power our electronic devices. They are renewable and do not emit any greenhouse gases. There are no ongoing fuel costs and they do not pollute the air. They can be deployed on a very small scale like these domestic-sized turbines. They support jobs and contribute to GDP. What’s not to like?

Wind turbines need wind to produce electricity. No wind = no power and there will be times when there is no wind. Some people complain that they are noisy. They have also been known to kill birds that fly into the blades. Some people also complain that they ruin the appearance of the countryside. I disagree with this. I have seen lots of wind farms in my travels around the UK and I think they look beautiful. There is something graceful about them. Perhaps on a deeper level I also see clever ingenuity and resourcefulness in them. Wind is, after all, an unlimited and free resource.

On the issue of bird fatalities, my views align with those of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which is in support of wind farms. They say:

 Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem.

This is echoed by other conservation groups around the world. The Bat Conservation Society supports well-sited wind farms. The American Bird Conservancy has a similar policy. Climate change aside, the biggest threat to birds is actually the domestic cat.

Some people blame illnesses on wind farms. This is known as wind turbine syndrome and it is nonsense.  Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney has been collecting a list of these illnesses and they include accelerated ageing, angina, back pain, dog behavioural problems, sleep disturbance, skin cancer and pretty much every ailment you can possibly think of.  It is actually a very funny list to read. The cartoonist at Crikey has illustrated 121 of these illnesses in the following cartoon (which I think I’ve posted before but it is worth double-dipping for this one).

ResizedImage4641659-windturbine-apocalypse-1
source: http://tobacco.health.usyd.edu.au/other-research/

So, dear readers, I think I have been clear about what I think, but what do you think about wind turbines? Do you love them or hate them?

71 thoughts on “Wind farms: love ’em or hate ’em?

  1. As you know, I am a big fan of them and have many blog posts discussing windbaggers and some of the interesting things they have to say. The interesting thing about the rejection of wind turbines, is that it comes in many shapes and forms. From the mysterious, kooky and completely fictional to my favourite…”Some people also complain that they ruin the appearance of the countryside.” To that I say this…. http://wp.me/a2fD5I-bq

  2. One of the things I hate most about the “controversy” of wind farms is that they say they spoil the countryside (as you have noted). What I find laughable and absolutely ludicrous is that these campaigners for the countryside often manage to convince the local councils to their views, and when asked, “What would you use to provide your power then instead of a wind turbine,” they simply reply, “Well there’s plenty of other options” and never specify.

    Well now our apparent desire to deny ourselves clean and cost-effective energy has led to the confirmation of plans to build two nuclear power stations at Hinkley, Somerset. And what is even more ridiculous is that no one in the UK has bothered to kick up a fuss about that… I honestly find it no wonder that the few sensible people in society believe that society is crumbling before our very eyes and all common sense has been lost.

    1. Sinal,
      I have read a little bit about the Hinkley proposal but didn’t realise it was a definite thing. There’s a good piece in the Guardian about the problems with it – The farce of the Hinkley C nuclear reactor will haunt Britain for decades.

      I am in favour of nuclear power but the Hinkley proposal, from what I understand, pegs the price per kilowatt too high and it’s also a dated 3rd generation power plant. According to the same Guardian article, Hitachi offered to build a 4th generation reactor in 2011 which would have been powered by nuclear waste (the Hinkley proposal will have the problem of what to do with waste), but for some reason the project never happened.

  3. Naturally I am all for them. In this very conservative state I live in they have state laws that say they can only be so tall if located near a populated area. She do have some huge win farms in western Kansas but just like the huge solar farms out there we sell the majority of the power to Colorado while our electric rates go up every six months

  4. “Dogs staring at walls”?? This is so funny… I’d say wind farms are a lesser evil. Not perfect, but if we want energy, what’s the alternative? I also think they are quite majestic and beautiful.

  5. Somebody needs to speak up for coal-fired power stations.

    The smoke, sulfates and soot that they emit are key factors in mitigating global warming. This is especially important in countries like China. And the mercury that they spew out, while small in quantity, can give the countryside a pretty metallic sheen.

    Mercury is poisonous?

    Hush now. You have mercury in the amalgam fillings in your teeth. Who was ever poisoned by their dentist?

  6. There are quite a few wind farms around Canberra. I find them quite surreal looking and certainly not a blot on the landscape. I would much prefer them to coal mines. Furthermore, when I last checked, wind reserves were infinite.

  7. Now I’ve read the article mentioned by uknowispeaksense, I’m wondering what I can do to protect myself from my heart’s deadly infrasound. Don’t know if I’ll make it through the night. 😦

  8. 1. To quote from another blog site, http://windfarmaction.wordpress.com/, “The trouble with wind farms is that they have a very large spatial footprint for a piddling little bit of electricity. You would need 800 turbines to produce the output of a coal fired power station.” – Sir Martin Holgate, Chief Scientist at the Department of the Environment of the British Government, October, 2004.
    2. In all, 30,000 of these monsters are planned in the U.K., marching into areas that have been havens of peace and tranquility for hundreds of years. Land owners have seen their amenity and property values plummet for this inefficient, unreliable and expensive energy source.
    3. All genuine bird lovers left the RSPB long ago.
    4. Try rambling in the highlands and see if you still enjoy the thumping sound of a wind turbine overhead.
    5. The subsidies to this industry have forced many Britons into a situation where they can no longer afford fuel to keep themselves warm and the country as a whole Is now facing the prospect of fuel shortages in the coming winter months. No wonder so many are now in revolt.
    6. In Scotland and elsewhere, it is the aristocracy and wealthy landowners, subsidized by the taxpayer, who are making a fortune by installing wind turbines on their properties.
    7. Wealthy and powerful developers are intent on overturning in the courts any successful challenges by community groups:-
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10410291/Lord-Stephen-attacked-over-wind-farm-law-change.html.
    8. Somebody needs to speak up for nuclear power also.

    1. Let’s just focus on one thing for the moment. Point 5 where you say subsidies “have forced many Britons into a situation where they can no longer afford fuel”.

      Wind power subsidies are actually lower than fossil fuel tax breaks which is arguably a subsidy itself.

      The IMF puts worldwide post-tax fossil fuel subsidies at $1.9 trillion in 2011 alone.

      Renewable energy is not to blame for higher electricity prices in the UK. In fact, the big six energy companies here have come under fire for increasing prices by over 10% when wholesale prices have only gone up by about 1.7%.

    1. Okay. Instead of governments giving the poor enough breaks to live like the rest of us humans, we should forget about sustainability. It’s not the fault of wind farms or ‘Green energies’ that the disadvantaged remain disadvantaged and, among other things, unable to pay their power bills or whatever. It’s because governments fail to institute policies that will help them out of their disadvantage. And as for the ‘monsters’ you speak about, I have a real problem with the implication in your comments that coal mines and coal-fired power stations are somehow a better option. For one, I’d rather a few wind turbines in my backyard as opposed to a coal mine or power station belching pollution into my life — whether in my backyard or my city.

      1. Power bills are going up because of subsidies to inefficient green energies and governments in Britain are running for cover. The rich are getting richer as a direct result of these subsidies while the poor are freezing to death. What’s wrong with nuclear? I don’t recall saying anything about coal. That’s another topic altogether but they are certainly better than dying from the cold.

      2. I referred to policies to help the disadvantaged out of their disadvantage. I also referred to breaks. I didn’t and don’t recommend badly designed programs founded on ill-thought out policies. Government funding of alternative energies doesn’t have to result in power cost increases.
        You quoted Sir Martin Holgate who seemed to be comparing wind farms unfavourably to coal mines. I inferred from this that Holgate’s preference—and yours (because you quoted him)—was coal mines and coal power.

  9. Well Rachel, this is where you will think I’m really, really weird. So far as the wind turbines themselves I find them frightening. As I do half-submerged boats or ships, and those ‘nodding donkey’ oil pumps that we used to see along the side of the road when driving to LA along the Ventura highway. Not for any reason other than I just don’t like the structure or the size or the way they look so nothing whatsoever to do with the practical or political meaning behind them! They are like something out of War of the Worlds so far as I’m concerned and I imagine them taking on a life of their own….but that’s just me 😉

    So that is the very weird part of me you now know. Moving on.

    So far as the actual wind farms and their use to us here in the UK? I do have to agree with the point that Eve Elizabeth made above that we see our electricity bills going up and up and up to pay for all these ‘green’ measures but if we really knew that they actually worked and were doing some good and helping us with our energy crisis then of course I we could agree that they are necessary and needed.

    With food prices going up constantly too (and in pounds and everytime I shop it seems these days) it is becoming increasingly harder for families to manage just to keep warm and eat, much less for those on a fixed income.

    I am always impressed with your arguments and the well informed points you put across so thank you for this Rachel but for me, the jury is still out as to whether or not I agree with wind farms.

  10. But, Bronwyn, government funding of alternative energy sources in the U.K. IS resulting in increased energy costs. Fuel poverty is real. The main point I was taking from Sir what’shisname was that wind energy is inefficient, a “piddling bit of electricity from a large spatial footprint”. And it is very bad policy when such a scheme benefits the rich at the expense of the poor. The tragedy is that the government is probably locked into these schemes.

  11. Eve says, “government funding of alternative energy sources in the U.K. IS resulting in increased energy costs”

    I don’t think this is true. Did you see my comment above? It is very easy to blame wind subsidies but I can’t find any actual evidence that they are to blame for the price hikes. In fact, all I can find evidence of is corporate greed.

  12. Sherri,

    I’ve decided to remove nesting in my comment threads as I’ve seen other blogs that don’t use it and I find it easier to follow. Although this may not work here but I’ll give it a try.

    Yes, I think it’s very weird that you find wind farms scary. But this is just personal preference. I can’t help but wonder whether it’s also partly a consequence of wind turbines being something new. I sometimes wonder what people thought of power lines and power poles when they first started marching across the countryside. They’re everywhere now but no-one seems to complain.

    On the issue of energy prices increases, I really don’t think wind farms are to blame. I can’t find any evidence of this but will continue looking and get back to you.

    If the true cost of fossil fuels was recognized in the price – that is the cost to the environment – then energy costs would soar. As it is though, fossil fuels are underpriced and more heavily subsidised than anything else.

  13. Ok, I said I’d come back with some info about what is driving higher energy bills in the UK. The BBC has a site that deals specifically with green taxes and how much they’re affecting bills.

    Apparently environmental and social costs account for 8% of a typical bill. Of the increase in gas and electricity prices over the last few years, 15% of this increase is due to climate change policies. See more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24646527

  14. wind power stations are very green, except for the metal which has to mined to make them; lots of them as they don’t produce much power individually, the ancient carbon-sink peat moor destroyed to put in the very large concrete foundations, the roads laid to service them, the pylons erected to carry the power from their dispersed locations, the fuel burned to install & maintain them spread out as they are over large areas, the upland landscapes scarred by the installation of industrial plant and the oil and nuclear stations we still need to keep in the same quantity as ever we did for the times when the wind over a small island like the UK is brought to a standstill for days by a single cold winter high pressure weather system.

  15. Correct me if I’m wrong here, northernbike, but it sounds as though you’re in the hate ’em camp?

    If, as you suggest, the environmental impact of wind turbines is greater than other forms of power, then I would agree that they’re not worth investing in. However, I am inclined to think they have a smaller impact on the environment than coal mining and coal-fired power plants.

  16. Thanks Rachel for your reply and for the helpful BBC link which I just read. I certainly do hope that the green measures this government are taking will indeed pay off in the long run.
    It’s a good point you make about electricity poles and power lines. Most of the cables are underground now (certainly in the West Country anyway) which is much better.
    To me, the countryside filled with wind turbines does seem a bit ‘1984’ ish. Reminds me of how J R R Tolkein must have felt when he wrote Lord of the Rings, hating the inevitable rise of the industrial era and so wanting to retreat to the safety of his Hobbit Shire! That’s me 🙂

  17. Here’s an article on energy subsidies that was one of several that came through to me today, Rachel, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/10/20/european-economic-stability-threatened-by-renewable-energy-subsidies/.
    When I have more time, I will respond specifically to your comment above.
    I was interested to read northernbike’s comments as I hadn’t previously thought much about the huge (30,000 turbines are planned) concrete footprint of these energy inefficient, bird munchers. That they are inefficient is a fact. Whether or not they are attractive is a matter of opinion and there we differ.

  18. Sorry to come so late to this interesting debate .Put me down under ” hate ’em”.
    Wind farms fail on all counts.They are grossly inefficient ,extremely expensive,hugely unreliable (requiring gas or coal fuelled backup), socially inequitable,arguably a danger to human health (see the Australian Government NHMRC public statement on Wind Turbines and Health), environmentally harmful,divisive for communities, a blot on the landscape,and don’t even achieve their purpose,namely the reliable generation of electricity and the reduction of CO2 emissions.
    It is silly to say they are cheap or “an unlimited and free resource”.A study for the Royal Academy of Engineering showed the following costs to produce a KW hour of electricity-
    Onshore wind turbine- 5.4p.
    Offshore wind turbine -7.2 p.
    Gas -2.2p.
    Nuclear 2.2p.
    Coal fired- 2.5p.
    Add the Renewables Obligation requiring payment to turbine operators for rising percentages of wind power from 3%i in 2002 to 15 % and more in future years plus the Climate Change Levy for every MW hour from conventional sources (renewables exempted), and the recent carbon tax,and the result is unsustainable power rises.
    As fuel bills in England now show, the end effect is that energy supply companies pay twice as much for wind generated electricity as for conventional power.
    Which explains why ” Green” David Cameron announced in parliament his intention to wind back the cost of these “green initiatives ” which he, Blair and Brown deliberately imposed on Britain to drive up the cost of fossil fuelled generation rather than trying to reduce the cost of renewables. Ditto Ed Milliband’s fatuous promise of a 20 month freeze on fuel price rises.
    But as the Guardian and other papers are keen to report ,perhaps the politicians can pin it on grasping energy generators.

  19. I forgot to mention that the official UK plan is to produce 32% of of Britain’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.meeting a European target signed up for by Tony Blair . It cannot work .If Britain erected 10,000 turbines between now and then,they would come nowhere near meeting a third of Britain’s electricity needs.In winter months with high demand,they would supply only about a tenth of the demand.
    This is paid for by every household in Britain.Yet the Government is pressing on with its hopeless strategy.
    And to decarbonise as to 50% by 2030, Roger Pielke Jr. has assessed in a peer reviewed paper that Britain will need some 40 new nuclear power station such as the Dungeness B station in action to displace the coal and gas fired generators . Instead of 40 nuclear stations Britain could utilise scores of thousands of wind turbines ,but I think the futility of the exercise is clear.

  20. Some very timely information: the Overseas Development Institute has just today released a report about subsidies to fossil fuel companies. You can read it here.

    In it, they say “subsidies to fossil fuel producers totalled $523 billion in 2011”.

    I understand that people have aesthetic objections to wind turbines and that they’re more expensive per kilowatt than coal and nuclear and that they kill birds and don’t work when there’s no wind. But folks, we need to say goodbye to fossil fuels and unless people want to start arguing in favour of blackouts, then we’re going to need to draw on every form of non-carbon power source we can find, including wind. I am not pro-wind over other forms of non-carbon power. I am anti-fossil fuels and will accept pretty much anything to power my lights as long as it isn’t coal, oil or gas.

    Frankly, I get a bit irritated by people lobbying against nuclear or wind or hydropower or whatever other sources of carbon-free energy they object to and yet they remain silent on coal, oil and gas. Well coal, oil and gas are the real villains in all of this and they’ve got to go. If people aren’t prepared to accept the alternatives then they’ll have to argue for blackouts.

  21. If I were to countenance saying goodbye to fossil fuels, and shut down the Aussie, N.Z. and British economies tomorrow, I certainly wouldn’t choose an inefficient energy source like wind, and condemn millions of poor to fuel poverty. Why take that course when nuclear is available? No wonder the British voter is disillusioned and turning to parties such as UKIP.
    Incidentally, the coal power station I lived opposite for over ten years cleaned up its act many years ago thanks to the Clean Air Act.
    And then there’s flying. Want to stop flying?

  22. Rachel,
    I had read the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council’s public statement, before posting and your quotation is accurate .However,the quotation does not entitle you to say that wind farms are not a danger to human health ,which was precisely the response that I anticipated and which we read repeatedly from some quarters.
    The Medicos acknowledge that the jury is very much still out on the issue. The Public Statement goes on to counsel authorities to deal cautiously with the issue, saying that “relevant authorities should take a precautionary approach”, and that “people who believe they are experiencing any health problems should consult their GP promptly.”
    On the issue itself , the inimitable Christopher Booker at the Daily Telegraph had the informative post, ” Germany’s wind power chaos should be a warning to the UK, ” on 22 September ,2012. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9559656/Germany's-wind-power-chaos-should-be-a-warning-
    Even if Ed Davey rejects Mr. Booker ‘s conclusions ,you must wonder why Germany with 23,000 wind turbines and millions of solar panels and and extensive subsidies is apparently building 16 new coal fired power stations and 15 new gas fired power stations by 2020.

  23. One of the most disappointing aspects of the opposition to wind turbines from, well let’s face it, they are anthropogenic climate change deniers, is the faux concern for birds and bats. In the comments section of this blog we have even seen turbines called “bird munchers”. I am not convinced in the slightest that the concern for wildlife is genuine. The argument is being used out of convenience and is a little dishonest. It’s essentially concern trolling.
    For a start, the number of birds and bats killed by turbines is orders of magnitudes lower than those killed by domestic cats, buildings and vehicles yet I doubt our allegedly concerned ACC deniers are protesting windows. I wonder if they own cats? http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ACE-00609-080210.
    Of course one could incorrectly argue that there is some false equivalence in that study as it doesn’t compare the difference in bird mortality of different power generation sources. This one does and it doesn’t look good for fossil fuels. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2012.01.074 “The study estimates that wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while fossil fueled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh.”

  24. uknowispeaksense says, “Nuclear prices itself out of the market.”

    I definitely agree with that article that the Hinkley nuclear proposal is going to price itself out of the market. It will make renewables look very cheap by comparison. I can’t understand why the government has agreed to such an expensive price and for dated technology.

  25. Eve says ,”To quote from another blog site, http://windfarmaction.wordpress.com/, “The trouble with wind farms is that they have a very large spatial footprint for a piddling little bit of electricity. You would need 800 turbines to produce the output of a coal fired power station.” – Sir Martin Holgate (sic), Chief Scientist at the Department of the Environment of the British Government, October, 2004.”

    Oops. It’s always dangerous quoting a quote from a quote from a right wing blog especially when the details of said quote are inaccurate. A little bit of fact checking wouldn’t go astray. This quote allegedly from October 2004 can be found twice in the UK government’s Hansard. Once in the House of Commons in May 2004 and then the House of Lords in June 2004. The politician who mentioned it in May was Nigel Evans, the right wing, Anthropogenic Climate Change denier who endorses the much debunked and silly movie the Great Global Warming Swindle as an excellent source of information. In both cases, the quote was referenced as coming from an interview with Martin Holdgate in the Observer of October 6, 2003. Unfortunately I have been unable to source that complete article to place the quote-mined quote into some sort of context. So to sum up, we have non-contextualised quote allegedly from a newspaper article, quote-mined by a biased, right-wing prejudicial politician, misattributed on a right wing, anti-renewable blog and repeated by another anthropogenic climate change denier here. Cool. Seems legit.

  26. With reference uknowispeaksene’s comments, It seems to me that anyone who disagrees, and holds their opinion on a reasoned basis is a troll. People who use the expressions like “faux concern” and “dishonest” in an attempt to denigrate and bully someone with an opposing point of view are not acting in a manner of honest debate themselves! I have a genuine concern for bird life.
    It is this sort of attitude that has alienated many in the community and caused them to regard some people who support CAGW as zealots.

    1. “I have a genuine concern for bird life.”

      And that is why with all available scientific evidence demonstrating that wind turbines kill far less than fossil fuel powered infrastructure you are campaigning against fossil fuels? Oh wait……..

    1. It’s not about whether I like their background or not, but it does go to potential sources of bias. Climate change science has been highly politicised outsideof the scientific world and to suggest otherwise is naive and folly. If Martin Holdgate is still alive, it would be interesting to hear how he feels about his comments being taken out of context and used by climate change deniers to make a point for them?

  27. uknowispeaksense’s criticism of the quotation is valid. Someone, who is likely biased, is claiming that wind turbines have a large spatial footprint without providing us with any evidence that this is actually true.

    In an article for ScientificAmerican, Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi argue that to tap into all wind energy resources available, we would need 3.8 million large wind turbines. Compare this with 73 millions cars and light trucks that are manufactured every year. They then go on to say,

    The worldwide footprint of the 3.8 million turbines would be less than 50 square kilometers (smaller than Manhattan).

  28. What evidence do you need, Rachel? All wind turbines can be accurately measured. Depends on what you mean by “large”. The central point is that they are inefficient and useless to provide base load electricity.

  29. Eve, if you’re going to claim that wind turbines are inefficient and useless then you need to back it up with evidence otherwise it just looks like your opinion.

    Here’s what Reg Platt, research fellow at the Insititute for Public Policy Research in London, has to say,

    Anti-wind campaigners frequently make claims about the shortcomings of wind power. Their main complaints are that the turbines are so inefficient that they actually increase carbon dioxide emissions, and so unreliable that they require constant backup from conventional coal and gas-fired stations.

    If correct, these claims would be devastating to wind power. But they are not.

    My organisation, the Institute for Public Policy Research, recently published a report tackling these questions. Our conclusions are unambiguous. Onshore wind power reduces carbon emissions and is a reliable source of electricity, at least up to the capacity of wind power that is forecast to be installed in the UK by 2020.

    To answer the carbon question, we used a simple model of the UK electricity market. As demand increases, say on a weekday morning when people are waking up and getting ready to go to work, power plants increase output to meet it. Plants with the lowest marginal cost – that is, those that can produce additional electricity most cheaply – are selected first by the market. Here wind beats gas and coal, as no fuel is needed to generate electricity.

    The upshot is that, in theory, adding wind power to the energy mix should displace coal and gas, and hence cut carbon. This is backed up by empirical data on emissions reductions from wind power in the US.

    There is another way of looking at it. In 2011, wind energy contributed approximately 15.5 terawatt-hours of electricity to the UK. If this had been supplied by fossil fuels instead, CO2 emissions would have been at least 5.5 million tonnes higher, and as much as 12 million tonnes higher.

    As for the important matter of reliability, the obvious worry is that because the wind does not always blow, the system will sometimes not be able to supply electricity when needed.

    This seems like common sense. However, the reliability of wind power does not depend on the variability of wind. Instead, it depends on how well changes in wind power output can be anticipated.

    Forecasts of wind farm output are increasingly accurate, and drops in output can be predicted and compensated for using conventional power stations. In any case, output is surprisingly stable across the country’s entire network of wind farms: when the wind isn’t blowing in one area, it usually is somewhere else. The relatively small changes that do occur are well within the capabilities of existing systems for balancing supply and demand on the grid.

    Even when winter delivers a “long, cold, calm spell” with low temperatures and little wind, the system can cope. This was demonstrated by a two-week period in February 2010 in Ireland, a country that is much more reliant on wind than the UK. It coped perfectly well.

    If the UK government caves into pressure and lowers its ambitions for onshore wind, it will make more expensive forms of low-carbon generation a necessity to hit the UK’s target of producing 30 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The result will be even higher electricity bills.

    Scaling back on wind would also be a lost opportunity. The natural resource at our disposal, combined with the UK’s engineering heritage, could create significant economic growth and jobs.

    The concerns of people who do not want wind power on their doorsteps need to be taken into account. We must also be sensitive to the need to preserve areas of natural beauty. But we should not sacrifice important opportunities because of the views of vocal minority groups and their unsubstantiated claims.

  30. Well, because wind speeds are so inconsistent, the average output of a turbine in the U.K. Is only 25% of its capacity. Often in winter when demand is highest, high pressure systems mean there is not enough wind to turn turbines at all. Others (douglas and northernbike) have already stated this elsewhere in your blog. Why do you doubt it now?
    Thanks to the vagaries of the wind, turbines are also unpredictable. Even when the wind is blowing you need back up using fuel, emitting CO2, and so on. As a result wind turbines do not save anything like the amount of CO2 they like to claim they do.
    By 2005 Britain had built 1200 turbines (over hundreds of square miles of countryside) but the total amount of electricity they produced was less than half that generated by a single 1200MW coal-fired or nuclear power station.
    Even George Monbiot admitted that “a single jumbo jet, flying from London to Miami and back every day, releases the climate-change equivalent of 520,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.”. One Boeing 747 thus cancelled out three giant wind farms.
    What’s the point of saving if we keep flying planes?

  31. Eve, please don’t comment here without providing references for the things you say. I don’t want to be a platform for what I view as anti-wind nonsense. If you don’t like this then you can start your own blog or comment somewhere else. You might view this as censorship but you are just giving your opinion and making it out to be fact on my blog when the prevailing scientific view is one of support for wind farms. In other words, you are creating doubt about something when there is in fact very little. The only objection to wind farms that I can see is called NIMBYISM.

    If you read the detailed publication I linked to above, Beyond the Bluster, you will see that wind power is both efficient and reduces carbon emissions. The problem of turbines not spinning when wind is low or absent is not an insurmountable one.

    On the topic of aeroplanes, which has nothing at all to do with this thread I might add, I’ve heard similar arguments made against donating money to charities in developing countries. Why should we help poor children in Africa when children at home are living in poverty? It’s as though the problem is so enormous that we may as well just give up and not bother with it at all. This is defeatist. If we were to follow your argument to its logical conclusion, then we would all have to commit suicide since our very existence is damaging to the environment.

  32. A book of Christopher Booker’s that happened to be lying about the place and Monbiot in The Guardian. I find it strange that you don’t demand references of your other bloggers in this way nor do you question some of the rather dubious and biased references provided by earlier by uknowispeaksense tonight. Have you actually checked them out? I wonder. Could this be because his views happen to agree with yours?

    1. You claim my references are “dubious” and you provide this? Did you actually read it? What you have provided is an open submission to a couple of Canadian politicians by a non-expert, an activist pharmacist. Surely I don’t need to explain to you the importance of expertise when it comes to complicated subjects? I mean, you could always get a plumber to rewire your house or a veterinarian to perform your brain surgery I guess. Whatever floats your boat.

      Anyway, let’s pretend your non-expert, the very biased and unscientific Carmen Krogh actually does know a thing or two and examine the important aspects of her submission.

      Her whole argument is built on a strawman that wind turbines are noisy and that noise has negative impacts on health. After setting up her argument with legal guff about the rights of the child according to the UN and the responsibilities of governments to uphold these rights, she uses as her first major point about the effects of noise, this…

      “Studies and statistics on the effects of chronic exposure to aircraft noise on children have found…”

      Funny, I thought we were talking about wind turbines? Is she really suggesting that turbines are as loud as aircraft? She then goes on to discuss some medical and psychological effects of noise. She backs it up with an example from the literature. She cites Niemann H, Bonnefoy X, Braubach M, Hecht K, Maschke C, Rodrigues C, Röbbel N. Noise-induced annoyance and morbidity results from the pan-European LARES study. Noise Health. 2006 Apr- Jun;8(31):63-79 which reports on the plausibility and correlation of aircraft, train, traffic and ‘neighbourhood’ noise. No mention of wind turbines. What is really interesting about this is the very very important caveats that litter the discussion section. The most important is this…

      “The disease as a pathological health end-point is of high importance and can only be examined in epidemiological studies. However these epidemiological studies like the LARES Survey only identifies statistical associations. The evaluation of whether an observed association reflects a causal relation must be made on the basis of different criteria.”

      Other caveats in the discussion include the lack of psychophysiological research, the short timeframe and other factors like medical history. I would think that would be important.

      Krogh then goes on to give more examples of research into the effect of noise on children. With the exeption of just one, none of them mention wind turbines. The one that does is a paper by Arline Bronzaft published in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society. This is really interesting in that the author mentions a “growing body of evidence to suggest the potential harmful effects of industrial wind turbine noise” but doesn’t provide any references to peer reviewed studies of the subject.

      Finally, Krogh states…

      “Published peer reviewed references document individuals living in the environs of wind turbines report reduced sleep quality and- / -or sleep disturbance and- / -or lower quality of life.45 ,46,47 ,48 ,49”

      Finally, 5 real references to look at!

      45. Self-cited paper with anecdotal “evidence”of health impacts based on interviews.
      46. Self-cited paper with self-reported anecdotes of perceived health effects.
      47. On the surface looks legitimate but I would call into question the use of anecdotal self-reporting again and the poor sample size. Typically, a with/without study would require many more replicates to avoid obvious issues of pseudoreplication and increase the degrees of freedom in any analysis. Inparticular the use of ANCOVA to compare only two groups greatly reduces the power of the test and renders it practically useless. There are other tests that should have been used with this data.
      48. Non peer reviewed conference proceeding
      49. Poor questionaire design pre-exposes candidates to the subject matter.

      At this point I’d like to go back to the title of this submission. Krogh has called it, “Risk of Harm to Children and Industrial Wind Turbines”

      At no point has Krogh actually provided any data associated with any risk analysis. She has tried to assert that wind turbine noise is equivalent to other industrial noises but has provided no data to back it up. In fact there isn’t even a single mention of the word “decibel” in the entire thing. She has tried to pass off real scientific data from unrelated studies as being linked and she relies heavily on anecdotal evidence from dodgy studies to make her point.

      This was your non-“dubious” reference? Really?

      Rachel, I am not going to continue in this conversation because it just gives a voice to wilful ignorance, scientific illiteracy and boneheaded conservative ideology.

  33. I am tempted to delete the link you have just provided because it references the views of Dr. Nina Pierpont. Nina Pierpont, to steal someone else’s words, is the high priestess of wind turbine syndrome. I have said numerous times already that wind farms do not cause illness. Dr Pierpont’s assertions have not been published in any peer-reviewed journal and are heavily criticised by acoustic specialists.

    Have a look at what the farmers who host wind farms on their properties have to say about them – http://theconversation.com/wind-turbine-syndrome-farm-hosts-tell-very-different-story-18241

    They drought-proof the farm by providing an income in tough years. None of them complain about the noise or health problems. Personally, I think I would much rather live near a wind farm than a busy highway.

  34. I understand, uknowispeaksense. Thanks very much for your contribution. I was probably a bit lenient on that link provided by Eve and indeed had to scroll down a fair way before I could find any mention of wind farms.

    I just heard a good quote from Sam Harris in this TED talk -http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html.

    Whenever we are talking about facts, certain opinions must be excluded. That is what it is to have a domain of expertise

  35. Rachel, I only put that reference up because it had a link between autism and wind turbines! As the mother of an autistic child yourself I thought you might in some small way find it interesting. I am pleased to think your beliefs are such that you are not influenced by these hoary old chestnuts that try to evoke effects on pregnant woman, the elderly and developing and or children with learning difficulties as a method to put their arguments across. On the whole I find resorting to such argumnents a load of horse manure also.

  36. With uncanny timing ,The Times is carrying a story ,”Wind Farm body count raises fear for future of bats,” Nov 8,2013 by Hannah Devlin, stating that an estimated 600,000 plus bats were killed by wind turbines in the US last year. Also the author of the study says they are at risk from climate change and a fungal disease!
    Bats are at greater risk from turbines than birds according to the author.

  37. It would be good to if people also thought about the perceived impacts of ‘normal’ power lines, pilons, mobile phone masts etc before leaping onto anti-wind farm band wagon – if we want electricity we have to get it from somewhere and ideally in as ‘clean’ and renewable a way as possible!

    1. I agree with you, Picaflore. When I went for my long bike ride the other day I couldn’t help noticing all the large electricity pilons marching across the peaceful country fields. They’re not attractive at all yet people accept them. Wind farms are new so I think much of the objection is because of this.

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