1 Dec 2009

Wind power in Stroud needs our support

Well Ecotricity's poll in Stroud Life shows 89.9% saying yes to Stroud making 50% of it's domestic energy from wind - see full results here. This is another illustration of the silent majority wanting wind - yes it was an Ecotricity poll but often the anti-wind folk will target such polls just as those favouring wind do....

Photos: Nympsfield viewed with telephoto lens from Randwick - and below Gloucestershire pylons that surely are really ugly!

All this and just a few weeks ago, Stroud District Council turned down an application for a wind monitoring mast at Stinchombe in the Berkeley Vale which could have been a precursor to a windfarm of 8 turbines generating one quarter of our district’s electricity needs (see more about why it was turned down here and a Q&A here). I understand this will now go to appeal and I would be astonished if it didn't get through.

Sadly this is not the only application being turned down – across the UK, local authorities have only approved 25% of applications for wind farms this year. All this and news in The Guardian that hopes of having a key government policy on renewables in place before the Copenhagen summit have been dashed - the blame apparently lies with internal wrangling over the final levels at which so-called "feed-in tariffs" (FITs) will be set. Alan Simpson MP is quoted saying the aim is to get 2% of electricity from microgeneration: "If they were five times as ambitious, it would only cost the average family another £2 a year. But energy companies and Ofgem don't want to go down that path – they have created a cosy oligopoly which produces non-renewable energy and ever-spiralling prices."

In contrast it was interesting to see in The Guardian Spain's windfarms set a new national record for electricity generation - high winds meant that over a weekend wind supplied 53% of Spain's electricity – equivalent to the power output of 11 nuclear plants (just as the government announce plans for 10 new nuclear sites in the UK – one at Oldbury). The massive output of the wind turbines meant that the Spanish grid had more electricity than was needed. In previous years, similar weather has forced windfarms to turn turbines off but now the spare electricity can be exported or used by hydroelectric plants to pump water back into their dams – effectively storing electricity for future use.

Meanwhile The Independent report that the Danish haven of Samso is one of the world's first industrialised places to become energy self-sufficient - wind was key to their success.

Anyhow after hearing from anti-wind folk in emails to me - including stuff in the SNJ - I read more about Dr Piermont - see here - and her research into 'wind turbine syndrome' - suggesting amongst other things that the audible swish-swish of turbine blades is infrasound - it is not, as many scientists will say - indeed her study of only 38 people from 10 families has not been peer reviewed - it can hardly be the basis for any argument. However that doesn't mean we should not research this more. Here is how Liz Hilary, our new Green party Press Officer responded in the SNJ:
Dear Editor

There has been much correspondence about wind turbines in the local press in recent weeks. One letter (SNJ Oct 28th) claims wind power can only reduce our carbon emmission by a tiny amount. Actually the UK has the best wind resources in Europe, with proper policies we can easily beat Denmark which by 2007 was already generating 19.7% of its electricity from clean and safe wind. The proposed wind farm near Stinchcombe could generater 25% of Stroud District's electricity - this is significant.

Another example is the letter in the SNJ from Oct 28 on Dr Nina Pierpont’s study which appears to show that wind turbines can damage health. On further investigation it appears that these findings are far from conclusive.

The National Health Service, for example, on a news site writes of Dr Pierpont’s findings: “No firm conclusions can be drawn from this study as the design was weak and included only 38 people. Participants were asked about their symptoms before they were exposed to wind turbines to provide a control for their symptoms after exposure. This was not a sufficient control...”

Dr Pierpont has coined the phrase ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ and attributes an increase in certain health symptoms to it but there is no evidence of an increse in these symtoms in countries that have a high number of turbines. For instance, in Germany there have been 15,000 turbines installed in the last 20 years and there has been no detectable increase in any of the health symptoms identified by Dr Pierpont.

However, it is important that the health effects of wind turbines are studied so that any possible health problems are fully understood – and extensive studies have been carried out at Salford University for example.

Climate change is real and its disastrous effects get nearer all the time. If we want to keep using power in our homes and businesses rather than lighting our rooms with candles and heating our food on a range, the fuel for which we have collected in a local wood, we need to get real about energy generation.

The government (and all the other major political parties) see wind as one of the primary means by which the UK can replace fossil fuels – by no means the only one but certainly an important one. Managers of The National Grid have said that wind power could directly deliver at least 20% of the UK’s electricity and remain economically feasible. If resources are also put into developing viable energy storage, this could turn even more of the power generated by wind turbines into a reliable source of energy.

It is time to stand up and be counted. Do you want to keep energy generation to your homes, schools, hospitals and businesses? Then support a consistent, national energy strategy that includes wind power generation.

Liz Hilary,
Stroud District Green party
Wind turbines are much cheaper than nuclear power stations and can be up and running in a fraction of the time. They will create jobs, help to fight climate change and generate electricity. We need to adjust our antiquated views about them and develop some realism over the future of energy generation in this country.

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