ANTI WIND FARMS
Country View magazine
November 26, 2004, p.16
PROFESSOR DAVID BELLAMY, the veteran botanist, broadcaster and conservationist, is also known as the doughtiest anti-wind farm campaigner of all. Here he argues that the statistics demonstrating the futility of wind power are now overwhelming.
Words: Paul Peacock
What's so bad about wind farms? Professor Bellamy's response is immediate. "Firstly, the biggest problem with wind turbines is that they are inefficient, thanks to the vagaries of the wind. There are 1,100 turbines currently in use and they start, stop, and their output fluctuates. Last year the actual amount of electricity they produced equated to a production time of 24.1 per cent of the year, and generated only a fraction of the energy we need," he says.
"What is more, please ask yourself how you boil a kettle or run a hospital when the wind isn't doing its bit? The answer is that you need at least 80 per cent of all conventional power stations on stand-by to fill in for wind.
"Secondly, the footprints of wind turbines will always be here -- they will never go away," he says. "They need foundations of around 1,000 tonnes of concrete, each." This, he argues, has severe effects on the water chemistry and the water table of the area where they are built, and that they can seriously alter the flow of water and nutrients in an ecosystem.
"You can't just put 1,000 tonnes of concrete into the ground and expect it to simply be alright."
"They also kill birds and bats in large numbers," he says. Many conservationists argue, Bellamy included, that the rotor tip of a working wind turbine travels at over 150 mph, and that this speed makes it difficult for birds to compensate in flight.
"If we are to achieve the our Kyoto obligations of producing 10 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources and if wind is to contribute three-quarters of the target, we will need more than 27,000 of today's average turbines," he says. "All this at incredible cost and totally inefficient in to the bargain, plus the habitat destruction that would go hand-in-hand with their production. This is an unacceptable price to pay."
What does he suggest as an alternative?
Firstly, greater economy via improved insulation of our homes. "For every 600 homes correctly insulated, you can do away with the need for one, 1-megawatt wind turbine."
Saving power is high on his list of priorities. "Relying on wind will cost the consumer dearly," he says. "One billion pounds a year to be exact. This would be a stealth tax that everyone of us will have to pay. The staggering fact is that if the government spent enough to give each home in the country a single energy efficient light bulb it would save twice as much electricity as all of Britain's wind turbines produced in 2003 [In contrast, this would cost around £200 million, according to Prof Bellamy in his article in The Galloway News, 18 November 2004, p.23].
"Also, hardly anyone is pushing the idea of localised green energy production from roof-top generation either by solar cell, or micro-low power wind generation," he says, "something that will save the consumer a lot of money in the short term, as well as contributing to national energy requirements."
Finally he advocates the safe exploitation of under-sea tidal flow "This can produce electricity for 23.5 hours a day without having to dam estuaries and interrupt wetland habitats of world importance. It is an important goal. Zero-impact energy production must be built into the way we think about future industrialising processes. Why should there be an 'acceptable' environmental cost?"