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Opposing wind generators is not anti-green

Published Aug 8, 2014


The intolerance of dissenting views by the Green Lobby is an unpleasant aspect of some of its members. They are perhaps unaware that tolerance of difference is a pillar of democracy and essential to individual freedom. But, whatever the reasons for vitriolic attacks on those against wind generators, environmentalists should take a closer look at Scottish opposition.

The most prominent in Scotland is the Windfarm Action Group. This group firmly states that everyone should take environmental responsibilities seriously. Whatever the causes of global warming and the varying views on what causes it, we must protect our earth and steward it wisely. It accepts a need to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It wants cleaner, reliable energy. It supports sound scientific solutions with the goal of a cleaner, greener world.

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No sane, sensible person can disagree with this. Even the most rabid environmentalist should agree too.

But this green group and 300 others like in Britain, plus another 400 in four EU countries, are against windfarms. They have gone into the subject thoroughly and engineers and scientists back up their conclusions.

To those who accuse them of merely being concerned with their own backyards and not the common good, they say add up our membership and you will find an awful lot of backyards. They are simply against what does not make good sense. They are convinced that wind power:

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- Is not a technically legitimate solution.

- Does not meaningfully reduce CO2 emissions.

- Is not a commercially viable source of energy

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- Is not environmentally responsible.

They believe there are better solutions to Britain’s energy concerns; solutions that meet scientific, economic, and environmental tests – and they have good reasons.

They point to the massive subsidies that windfarms received initially from the British taxpayer, money that attracts multinational corporations like flies to treacle. These subsidies added to the higher price ordinary British householders pay for their electricity.

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This “stealth” tax was considerable. Most consumers were unaware that it was used to make wind-generated economically feasible on the one hand, and to fill the pockets of the manufacturers on the other.

This largess allowed wind-generation companies to make generous payments to landowners for permission to use their land. Such was the temptation that some Welsh farmers trying to raise sheep in arduous and scarcely profitable areas leapt at it.

One told his local newspaper that if it were not for the payments he got, he would have given up farming long ago.

The Wind farm Action Group quotes British government documents that say each wind turbine in Britain still receives an annual subsidy of more than £235 000 (R4.3 million). Britain has about 1 120 turbines in 90 parts of the country.

Among the usual objections to windfarms – they do not work all the time, they are noisy, kill birds and bats, and so on, the group adds a few more. For example, wind generators interfere with radar; dirt and flying insects affect their performance; ice build-up on the propellers affects performance even more; and wind turbulence further reduces their power production.

Finally, there is rust. Britain is a wet place but offshore wind turbines have salt to contend with as well. One Danish offshore wind farm had to be entirely dismantled for repair when it was only 18 months old.

Yes, groups such as these exist almost everywhere there are windfarms. They are often, like this Scottish one, as caring of the environment as anyone, perhaps more so. They are not only concerned with their own backyard; they are concerned about everyone’s backyard.

Yet they say this: “We believe that in time this [windfarms] may well be the greatest environmental disaster that mankind in panic, haste, folly and greed, has ever conceived.”

Britain is an old country and its language is full of folk wisdom like this: “No one ever built a windmill, if he could build a watermill.”

A more modern version of common sense would be: “Using wind power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is akin to trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a teaspoon.”

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