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Wind Turbine Debate

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 22 September 2011

As someone who has contributed to debates around wind turbines and renewable energy I was pleased to see there is going to be a public meeting on this topic next week

Hebden Bridge Wind Turbine Public Meeting!

Methodist Hall, Market Street

Wednesday 28th September, 7.30 pm - 9.00pm

Sadly this clashes with Hebden Royd Town Council, so many of your councillors who regularly make planning recommendations on wind turbines won't be able to attend.

I'm sure I speak for other councillors when I say this is a shame we won't be able to attend. Perhaps someone who does attend could fill us in in the points raised? For the record i'm very much in support of all renewable energy, but think we need to work on more community energy projects so we can all benefit directly from turbines going up in our shared environment.

From Joel B

Thursday, 22 September 2011

I for one am maybe a little ignorant towards the wind turbine debate. My view on them is that they save energy, the appearance of them doesn't bother me too much and I don't see any issue at all if somebody wants to build one on their own land. Can I ask though what people think the negatives are?? I'm just interested to know what all the fuss is about!! (sorry Cllr Baker if this starts a mass debate on your thread !!)

From Anne H

Friday, 23 September 2011

It doesn't really bother me that the town councillors have prior engagements because it would be good to get a clear picture of a cross section of 'normal' residents' views - before and after the debate.

If I understand democracy correctly, the councillors represent us (not their own personal views) so in order to make decisions on our behalf they need to know what we think. A well publicised public meeting that presents both sides seems like a very good way of showing what ordinary people think.

Also, the issue concerns more than just Hebdenroyd - most of the wind turbines are likely to be sited in one of the surrounding parishes, so although the meeting is held in Hebden for convenience sake I would say that it is of much wider concern than the town council.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 23 September 2011

Anne I can understand that some people might quite like a meeting without us usual suspects butting in with our opinions. It is quite important though I think for Councillors to attend meetings like this so they stay in touch with public opinion. That is why I asked if someone who does attend could let us know what the views expressed were.

I agree the most important part of representative democracy is about representing people's views. I do think it is in part about standing up for your own views and principles that people can trust you to uphold.

You are right many of the turbines are built in the parishes, but also up in Crag vale that Hebden Royd covers. I've been on the council since may and we have already looked at two planning applications for turbines.

Meetings like this are a good way of finding out what people think, but it's worth remembering that attending a public meeting isn't for everyone. So there might be lots of people who think differently.

Joel - I think people object on a number of grounds, aesthetic, interference with bird life, cost, effectiveness.

I'd personally be very keen to see a community energy project where those who don't own land and can't afford to buy their own turbine could chip into a joint effort.

From Em F

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Here's an interesting website . . . it has a lot of info on the impacts of windfarms, including a 'debunking the myths' page.

From Ian M

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

If someone could explain why we have paid £523 million in susidies to foreign owned firms to build these things. Not to mention the cost of subsidy to all our bills and the millions for not producing anything at all when the wind was too strong, I may be able to start on the fact that they produce hardly any power at all before I start on how ugly and noisy they are!

From Phil M

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I believe wind turbine technology is definitely the way forward and I would like to see more!

The technology is progressing in the way that every technology progresses, by making them, then making them better through research and development.

To say they produce 'hardly any power' is very short-sighted!

More and more wind farms are being sited out at sea and the end-game will be a multi-energy rig which utilises wind energy, wave energy and photovoltaics.

Personal turbines such as the Old Town one and the others out and about round the valley are also acceptable but I think there should be some kind of community pay-back enforced (maybe a % of any revenue from the national grid being passed onto a community or charity tarif) on anyone who puts up a 'biggun' as it will impact the community from a visual perspective.

From Jenny Shepherd

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Calderdale Civic Trust launched its first public debate yesterday with Blackshaw Environmental Action Team members Finn Jensen and Dorothy Sutcliffe respectively presenting the case for and against wind farms.

Finn outlined data showing the gap between projected energy demand and supply from fossil fuel and nuclear sources over the coming decades. He explained that the shortfall is due to the near-exhaustion of easily available oil, gas and coal reserves and also to the legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions - which rules out reliance on fossil fuels.

Both Dorothy and Finn stressed that part of the solution must be a reduction in energy use/demand. Finn claimed that renewables are the best way to fill the gap between projected energy demand and supply. Of the different renewables, he said that wind is the cheapest and most available in our windy upland Pennines.

Dorothy, who heats her home with coal, sees solid fuel as the solution to the projected "energy gap". She described many downsides of wind turbines. Living close to a wind turbine in Blackshaw, she and her neighbours have found it to be very noisy. She explained that a resident who's installed a wind turbine for their bed and breakfast house has had to turn it off at night because of the noise. Another neighbour is bothered by the flashing light from the turbine blades.

Everyone agreed that wind turbines should be carefully sited to avoid such problems and that the planning process is key to this. Some people in the audience stated that Calderdale Council were unfairly biased in favour of wind turbines and never refused an application - regardless of its suitability. Others replied with examples of planning applications for wind turbines that Calderdale Council had turned down. The audience and the two speakers agreed that not everywhere is suitable for wind turbines and that the planning process should respect this.

Dorothy also spoke of the dangers of wind farms to the public and to workers. Parts of blades have fallen off turbines in Cornwall and Scotland and accidents during the construction, maintenance and operation of wind turbines that have killed employees. She also pointed out the high carbon emissions associated with constructing wind turbines - including the production of cement for the foundations and transport of all materials to the site.

In response to the debate, audience members commented that all power generation sites - whether coal, gas, nuclear or renewable - were dangerous industrial sites where the public are not admitted. And that, comparing like with like, construction of any form of power station involves the use of a lot of cement.

(A point not raised during the discussion is that low carbon cement technologies already exist and are increasingly being used in the construction industry. Examples are Celtic Cement Technology in Wales and Zeobond in Australia.)

Although this debate didn't seem to change anyone's mind, it enabled people to explain and examine different views and share information in what was - despite some people's anxieties - a non-adversarial atmosphere. Calderdale Civic Trust intends to hold more public debates.

Also posted on Dcarb Facebook page


From Ian M

Friday, 30 September 2011

The transportation of these turbines from their manufacturing site to where they will be installed cannot be ignored. None are built in the uk and must be shipped in and then transported by road. To see what is involved in this, take a look at the website for Colletts Transport.
Each one is a massive undertaking.

From Finn Jensen

Sunday, 2 October 2011

As one of the speakers at the Calderdale Civic Trust meeting I am willing to do my powerpoint presentation to the councillors - and any other groups.
The two reports on this website both give a good summary of the public meeting but here is the speech I had prepared:

First of all I would like to thanks the Calderdale Civic Trust for arranging this meeting and for inviting me as a speaker.

Dorothy Sutcliffe and I both live in Blackshaw Head and know each others' views on wind turbine. We work together on many community issues and will ? I am sure ? continue to do so after tonight. One can be both friends and disagree on some things! I hope we can make tonight's debate informative so everyone can make informed views and choices ? which is part of a democratic society.

Although I am in favour of wind turbines I do not think they are appropriate everywhere, - like you would not put a wind turbine next to Stonehedge. That is why I am in favour of a proper democratic planning process which must involve community consultation. Conservation priorities are some of several issues to be considered. Wildlife impact assessments should always be a must.

I do not think we can discuss wind turbines in isolation ? we first have to look at the bigger energy policy options. Before we decide on whether we need or want wind turbines we need to investigate if there are better alternatives. The highest priority should always be to reduce the amount of energy we use ? we waste so much energy that it is a scandal. And it is much cheaper to invest in energy saving measures than it is to produce more energy.

However, even if we reduced our energy use by say up to 50% we will still need some energy ? electricity, heating, transport, etc. Currently we get most of our energy from fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) but there are several problems with this. One is that we will run out of oil, gas and coal at some point ? the first to run out is oil. Even some of the big oil companies are now warning that oil production cannot keep up with the worldwide demand ? resulting in constant prices rises, apart from when we have an economic crises. Most researchers agree that the maximum production of oil will happen in the next 10-20 years, some say it has already happened.

The other major problem with the use of fossil fuels is of course that they create a lot of pollution in form of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide or CO2. The greenhouse gases heats up the planet very fast, so fast that we are loosing thousands of species as a result. This loss of biodiversity should be a big problem for anyone interested in conservation.

The heating of the planet leads to drastic and unpredictable weather changes ? like floods, droughts, etc. This will make food production more difficult, millions will starve, become refugees, fight over limited resources, etc. Sea levels are already rising and this rising could become unstoppable ? like rising temperatures can become unstoppable. Scientists call this positive feedbacks and tipping points. Most at risk of melting fast is West Antarctica, which could melt this century and create sea level rises. If this happened cities like Hamburg, New York, Beijing, Seoul, London, Bangkok, Sydney, New Orleans, Venice, Cairo, Shanghai, Washington DC and Miami could be affected. These cities have over 80 million people living in them. So saving the planet from rising greenhouses gases is the biggest conservation task facing us all.

Fossil fuels create many other problems. Particularly coal contains a lot of toxics which are damaging to our health. We are also very vulnerable when we have to import nearly all our fossil fuels from often unstable countries. We have seen how Russia cut of gas supplies to Ukraine, which affected large parts of Europe or when OPEC increased oil prices in the 1970's. The UK's oil and gas reserves are fast running out ? so no help there. The US spends $1 billion on imported oil .. every day! Energy security is something we have to consider.

So what are the alternatives to avoid some of these problems? There are basically three options ? apart from the drastic energy reduction:

  1. Clean coal or carbon capture and storage (CCS) where the CO2 at the coal and gas power stations is captured before it reaches the atmosphere and is then stored either underground or in deep oceans ? in the hope that it will never reach the atmosphere! This technology has not yet been proven on a commercial scale; it is extremely expensive and uses a lot of extra energy. And it cannot capture all the greenhouse gases, like from heating and transport which are the majority of our energy use.
  2. Nuclear power stations produces electricity but also produce greenhouse gases from mining of uranium, from transport, from building the power plants and from storage of the radioactive waste, demolition of the power station, etc. Despite decades of research there still is not a solution to how to deal with the radioactive waste in a safe condition for 100,000 years. Is it fair to give this legacy to future generations? And as we saw in Japan if it goes wrong with nuclear power stations it can go wrong on a big scale ? unlike with the next alternative.
  3. Renewable technologies are not without problems either. Some of the technologies (like wave machines that produce electricity) are still in their development. Others (like hydro and wind turbines) are established technologies. The national grid needs to be upgraded to cope with the installation of a lot of new renewable technologies. But can they deliver the energy needed? The UN estimates that renewables can cover around 80% of the world's energy needs. A study called 'Zero Carbon Britain 2030' show that the UK can become carbon neutral by 2030 ? if the political will is there. It would also require behavioural change from everyone, like eating less meat (as cows produce a lot of methane ? a greenhouse gas worse than CO2).

So what about the objections against wind turbines?

  1. It is claimed by some it take too much energy to make and erect a wind turbine compared to how much energy it can produce over its lifetime. An average wind turbine produces at least 40-50 times the energy required in its manufacture and installation. A coal powered plant only produces 8 times the energy it takes to mine and transport the coal and build the power station. For nuclear power it is 9 times more. So wind has an Energy Return On Investment (EROI) higher than coal and nuclear.
  2. Wind power is often claimed to be more expensive that coal or nuclear. A study by the Sustainable Development Commission in 2005 showed that the generation cost of wind power was around 3.2p/kWh onshore and 5.5p/kWh offshore ? this compared at the time to a wholesale electricity price of 3.0p/kWh. A government study in 2010 estimates that onshore wind to be 9.4p/kWh, nuclear 9.9p/kWh, gas 8.0p/kWh and offshore wind 15.7-18.6p/kWh. A 2002 government study concluded that onshore wind was competitive with both new coal and cheaper than new nuclear.
  3. 3. Wind is not blowing all the time and therefore not producing electricity all the time: this is a real issue. The wind is more reliable offshore and we can store some electricity (if for example we had hundred of thousands of electrical cars charged from the grid they could supply electricity back to the grid when needed. It is very rare that the wind is not blowing anywhere in the UK and we can exchange green electricity across Europe ? as is currently done in Scandinavia ? and even from the deserts of North Africa. So we will have to have some backup in addition to PV solar panels, hydro projects, wave machines and tidal turbines. The backup can be methane from landfill, agriculture, etc. Methane is a greenhouse gas ? so we solve two problems at the same time with this solution.
  4. It is sometimes claimed that house prices will fall if the houses are near a wind farm. Research in the UK and USA show that this is not the case.
  5. Some say wind turbines are not safe, like they kill people in accidents. All energy production carries some risks and this is usually given as deaths per unit energy generated. For the period 1975 to 2010 there have been 44 recorded fatalities for wind or 0.054 death per gigawatt year. For gas it is 0.197, for coal it is 6.921 and for liquefied petroleum gas it is 15.058.
    6. Wind turbines creates shadow flicker and one researcher has claimed that this can damage people's health, like causing photo-epileptic seizures in vulnerable persons. However, all other studies disagree with this finding.
  6. Wind turbines create some noise ? see table. However, it has to be said that the noise level can vary a lot between different types of wind turbines. That is why we have planning rules on where wind turbines can be placed and where they cannot.
  7. Wind turbines kill birds ? I agree. The table shows what else kills birds and wind turbines are not the main culprit. In fact climate change is the biggest threat to birds.

In conclusion I will say that renewable technologies can cover most of our energy needs and wind turbines plan an important part of the energy jigsaw. Most of the wind turbines will have to be placed at sea/off shore ? where they are also more effective. Some electricity can also be stored for later use ? like by pumping water up in reservoirs on hills and mountains and release the water when it is need to generate electricity. It is interesting that Scottish and Southern Energy has just announced it was pulling out of nuclear power to concentrate on renewable energy. They obviously sense which way the wind is blowing!

In the next 5-15 years a third of the UK's existing coal and nuclear power stations will be taken out of action and we have no ready replacement! - the so-called energy gap. CCS and new nuclear power plants will not be ready in time to fill this gap. A combination of energy reduction/conservation and renewable technologies, like solar panels, heat pumps, hydro, wind turbines, turbines run by the tides, etc can fill this gap.

Germany, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark and others have decided that they can live without nuclear power. If those countries can the UK can too! But perhaps nuclear power can be the topic for another public meeting. Climate change could be another topic for a debate.

Finally, I want to recommend community owned wind turbines where the financial returns from the wind turbine can be reinvested in the community ? decided by the community ? to make the communities better to live and work in. That is what we are planning to do up in Blackshaw Head.


See also


HebWeb News - Hebden Bridge Wind Turbine Public Meeting Report (September 2011)

HebWeb Forum - Turbine at Old Town (early 2011)

HebWeb Forum - Windmill in Hebden Bridge (Nov 2010)

HebWeb Forum - Wind Turbines (June 2010)