Wind could benefit Lincolnshire

by Norman Haigh

Wind power has unfortunately become a controversial issue in Lincolnshire.  Unfortunate because wind has the potential to become an important part of the energy mix for Britain as we move away from fossil fuels. These fuels cannot last for ever.  We can’t gain long term energy security by relying on declining resource.

We all agree that energy security is important, and the best way to achieve this is to use energy sources that are sustainable and under our control.  Relying on imported fuels hands this control to other countries.  By harvesting the wind that blows over our land and territorial waters, or the tides that break on our shores, or the biomass that we grow ourselves, we are in control of our energy supply.

Of the various renewable sources of energy available to us, wind is the most mature technology.  Turbines can be in operation relatively quickly, development costs and out put are known, so they are seen as low risk for investment.  While any one wind farm may be becalmed on any day, across a wide area, including out to sea, the wind will always be blowing.  Backed up with tidal generators,  and biomass, we can have a secure and reliable energy mix.  With energy conservation, which will cut our bills, we can cut our energy demand.  This mix, with some additional novel technologies that are in the pipeline, can give us a sustainable, secure, affordable energy supply.

Wind is challenging the supremacy of the fossil giants and putting at risk the huge investments made in fossil fuels.  To check its progress therefore many false claims about the unsuitability of wind have been made by those with interests or investments in the fossil industry.  Some of these false claims have been made recently in Lincolnshire in response to various planning applications to develop wind farms in the county.

The false claims of the opponents of wind energy must be challenged.

It is not true to try to claim that a wind farm will only create employment for Germans as the chairman of Hemswell Cliffs opposition group [VOCAT] has said.  It is true that we must buy the turbines from Germany, because the Government has failed to support a home grown turbine industry, turning its back on what would now be a vibrant global business.  However the wind industry is planning to employ 90,000 people in the UK by 2020 and is investing in training to attract young people into long term employment.  With youth unemployment at over 20%, Lincolnshire can’t afford to ignore this opportunity

It is not true to say that it is wind energy that is driving up energy costs and leading to fuel poverty as Lincolnshire County Councillor Colin Davie claims.  The increase in energy bills is almost all due to the rise of the price of wholesale gas.  The subsidy going to renewable energy is £2.35 billion, the coal, oil and gas sector receives a subsidy of £2.6 billion, that we also have to pay for. The nuclear industry receives a wide range of subsidies, for example, the decommissioning of the current nuclear reactors will cost over £90 billion that we will have to pay for and from which we will get no benefit.

It is not true to say that wind energy is inefficient, this claim comes from a deliberate misunderstanding of the figures.  Based on time in operation, a modern coal fired plant is judged to have a load capacity efficiency of 50%.  A wind farm has a load efficiency of 30%, but it is true that this declines with age, as it does with any power station.  This is why the siting of turbines is critical to ensure that they increase their efficiency in catching available wind.

It is a gross misstatement to claim that wind turbines don’t work and are not worth investing in as the chairman of VOCAT has said.  On 4th February this year, wind turbines generated 12% of UK demand for electricity, powering 10 million homes, exceeding nuclear output.  With £40 billion invested already in operational or soon to be operational plant with £5 billion to be invested this year and a further £50 billion by 2020  the market clearly does not share this view.

It is true that some people dislike the sight of turbines from their windows or on their favourite walks, the same people will also dislike the fracking well heads that will spring up over the County if the Government’s dash for gas policy is allowed to go ahead.  But some people like them and tourist can take a very different view.  A big wind farm near Glasgow is now a major tourist attraction, somewhere to go on a wet day.  Take a positive view of wind farms and turn them into an attraction, tourists want attractions, and tourism is important in Lincolnshire, again the County is turning its back on opportunities.

Lincolnshire has a rich wind potential.  Had that resource been supported and developed as it has been in Germany, we could have had a home grown turbine industry using the historic engineering skills of the area, providing good quality jobs, and making the County an energy hub, attracting business, generating income and employment.  But our failure to grasp this opportunity means that we have no home grown turbine industry, we have missed the chance to develop secure employment based on both energy conservation and renewable energy.  Lincolnshire has not become an energy hub and business shuns the county.

In its 2010 Election Manifesto the Green Party called for a Green New Deal in which Government investment in energy conservation and renewable energy would trigger the creation of thousands of sustainable jobs, stimulating new businesses and attracting inward investment.   We support the development of wind farms, but only on a scale appropriate to the local landscape.  Where possible, we want to see  renewable energy developments run as cooperative ventures in which the local community is involved and derives direct benefit. For us, communities must have a clear say and a direct stake in the development of their own resources, and part of that local resource is its landscape.  We all want a secure an affordable energy supply, renewable resources an give us that, but for Greens those resources have to be developed sensitively.  But we would also argue that communities should also be prepared to make some concessions to secure their energy future. It is not acceptable for them to say that their energy has to be generated in someone else’s backyard.

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