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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Wind farms 'must take root in UK'
Wind power, PA
Many people support wind farms, but resist them in their local area
Wind power must be made to work in the UK in order to combat climate change, a report by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) has said.

The report maintains it is possible to meet the government's target to have renewables provide 10% of the UK's electricity by 2010.

If wind farms take off, it claims, that figure may rise to 20% by 2020.

The report says wind farms would take up 0.0001% of British land to produce that amount of electricity.

"These things are very small really, at the base," Bernard Bulkin, commissioner and chair of SDC's energy and transport steering group, told the BBC News website.

"And where they've been put on farms, they take less than 5% of the farmer's land for quite a big development, which will provide an income."

Changed landscape

The report's authors accept wind farms will alter the British landscape, but probably not as much as climate change would.

"Climate change will have a devastating impact unless urgent action is taken to boost the contribution of renewables, alongside energy efficiency measures," said SDC chairman, Jonathon Porritt.

"We believe wind power is a critically important part of the overall energy mix, and hope this authoritative guide will ensure wind power is harnessed in the most responsible way to ensure that emissions of carbon dioxide are reduced."

Wind power is a critically important part of the overall energy mix
Jonathon Porritt, SDC chairman
In order to meet its Kyoto target of a 12.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, averaged over 2008-2012, the UK must look for "cleaner" sources of energy.

According to the report, wind is a prime candidate. The UK has the best and most geographically diverse wind resources in Europe, it says, more than enough to meet current renewable energy targets.

In addition, it is only modestly more expensive than "conventional" energy sources. Indeed, the report claims that as fossil fuel prices increase and wind turbines become cheaper to build, wind power may even become one of the cheapest forms of electricity over the next 15 years.

"Wind power is essential to meet the government's carbon emission targets and also wind will be one of the cheapest forms of energy out there," said Simon Clydesdale, of Greenpeace.

The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) also supports the expansion of wind farms.

"We think this is great," said NIA spokesperson Ruth Stanway. "We need all the renewable energy we can get. It is not one thing over another: nuclear cannot provide the answer on its own, wind cannot provide the answer on its own; we need everything because [climate change] is a very serious problem."

Narrow approach

However the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) is dismayed at the report, believing too much focus on wind is a mistake.

"The report leads us to infer that wind turbines will avert climate change, but that is untrue," John Constable, head of policy at the REF, told the BBC News website. "They have something to offer but the question is whether we need to place as much reliance on what is actually a very high impact and costly means of emissions reduction.

"The UK's role globally is to offer a compelling economical example to the developing world. We want China and India to look at us and say: 'That was smart. They reduced their emissions and they stayed rich'. And wind farms are not going to do that."

Mr Constable believes the UK needs to take a broader approach to renewable energy by simultaneously investing in several sources.

"We need a broad basket approach to renewables - and we need to ensure that investment is spread across the entire package," he said. "So that includes tidal and biomass, which at the moment are getting no look-in because the cheapest ticket to the subsidy stream is wind."

Bird kill

Another problem with wind farms is that while many people support the idea of them, they do not want them in their local area.

We don't give blanket support for all wind farms, they have to be sensibly sited
Simon Clydesdale, Greenpeace
The report says that although there is national support for wind farms, there is much local resistance. People feel they will spoil the landscape and there are also concerns they may kill birds.

"People do support wind energy when a survey is put in front of their nose but it's a question of putting that into practice," said Mr Clydesdale.

He said 150,000 people a year were dying because of climate change impact, so people "have to go beyond their subjective visual concerns and look at the broader picture".

However, Mr Clydesdale does point out that it is important to think carefully about wind farm locations. They should not, for example, be placed on bird migratory routes.

"We don't give blanket support for all wind farms, they have to be sensibly sited," he said.

"There is a wind farm in the Isle of Lewis that is being proposed at the moment, that the RSPB are opposing because it may impact migratory routes.

"We do not support that application, because we think a wind farm may not be suitable for that particular location."

Your comments

We may well end up building more nuclear out of desperation in a few years, but this is not a cheaper option, nor a greener option than renewables, and it has its own set of rather serious environmental problems, so by proper investment in all renewables now we can avert this situation. And why not start with wind - on-shore wind farms produce the cheapest and cleanest energy. I think it is very selfish of people to attempt to block planning applications for turbines on what is a purely personal aesthetic judgement.
Evan Tuer, Cupar, Fife

Why not deal with the root of the problem rather than letting people waste more and more energy
Jimmy, Newcastle
We could equal all of the UK's Kyoto protocol targets by educating each and every person in the country about energy usage and wastage. Why not deal with the root of the problem rather than letting people waste more and more energy? A sense of community and large marketing campaign would be a far cheaper and more efficient use of money. In addition wave energy devices have the potential to provide much of the benefits of wind plus some extra (forecasting, higher energy densities and less to no visual impact). Should this not be a major drive for the DTI?
Jimmy, Newcastle

The really depressing thing about the energy discussion (apart from turbine nimbyism), is that we're meant to be moving forward. Instead, we get the same old rubbish about nuclear being a 'cheap' and 'clean' option. It's none of those things. If you factor in external costs (incl. decommissioning, radioactive-waste disposal for centuries, etc.), the average cost of a unit of nuclear electricity is about double that of a wind-power-derived unit and about one-and-a-half-times that of a unit of hydropower. And this calculation does not factor in the huge expense of safeguarding nuclear plants from terrorist attacks.
Tom Genrich, Marlboroug h, Wiltshire

I moved over here in 1999 and when renovating my house included the concept of reducing the impact our lives would have on the environment for good. I have a small wind turbine, 3 PV solar panels producing my own electricity, solar panels which produce my hot water, all less than the cost of a small car. People say things like "what if it is not windy" as an excuse to do nothing. My argument is that even if you can reduce your energy impact by 50% - think how that would make a difference on a large scale. I hate it when people say the government should do something. For me -I am not prepared to wait. If each individual does something -who needs the government?
Steven Martyn, France

With our ever-expanding population, undeveloped land is going to come under increasing pressure - leaving it in an unspoilt condition will not be an option. So given the choice between having a wind farm or a 200 house estate built opposite my home, I'd choose the wind farm every time!
Gary Hellen, London, United Kingdom

There is too much emphasis on big business solutions
Janet Alty, Leamington Spa, UK

There is too much emphasis on big business solutions - large wind turbines are attractive to energy businesses because they still give a significant return. What is needed is far more micro wind installations - no more impactful than TV aerials - much closer to point of use and much easier and cheaper to install. All we need is for local authorities to start sanctioning such installations now.
Janet Alty, Leamington Spa, UK

Other western countries that have entered into major wind campaigns (Norway for example) have regretted it. They have caused mass devastation of their landscape with very little emission reduction in return. Also while they may be small "at the base" they can be seen for extremely long distances and are steadily ringing our precious national parks.
Craig, Skipton

Wind turbines are a positive way forward
Karen H, Derry, Northern Ireland
As an environmentalist I think wind turbines are a positive way forward. They are magnificent to look at, they don't take up a lot of land (why would that matter anyway because the land would only be used for a factory or some other eyesore!) and not only this but they are clean and efficient. Nuclear energy as an alternative? I think not! With all of the attacks going on in the world, not to mention accidents that could happen in the actual plant itself, nuclear energy is risky and can have devastating effects on the environment and community - as seen at Chernobyl. I would like to see more wind farms on the coasts here in Ireland, the conditions are perfect!
Karen H, Derry, Northern Ireland

Ugly developments are taking place on a daily basis, so why not use wind farms. We have to realise that in some cases they are not ideal, but they can be removed after a short period, say five years. The coasts are going to be eroded at a greater rate under the influence of climate change, they unlike wind farms cannot be moved or replaced at will. We have to accept that coal and oil will run out, the only way to preserve and enhance our natural world is to make changes now. We know we will never be fully supported by wind power, but since we have yet to find a valid alternative, lets go for it.
Paul H, Walsall

It is all very well building endless wind farms, but why is there no mention of increased energy usage efficiency. The appraoch is disjointed. What's the point of increasing renewables when 500,000 new homes are to be built in the south-east without any compulsory improved insulation, grey water recycling or photo-voltaic cells. I'm all for green energy but declaring wind power as our salvation is narrow minded. Build the wind farms (away from our wildlife rich natural spaces) - but also look at a whole suite of solutions.
Fred Fearn, Cheshire, England

Wind farms can only be a part of the solution to the renewable energy problem. For many years there have been other options under consideration such as solar and wave power but the political popularity of these seems to have dropped away at present. And then there is the much neglected option of biomass: people have been burning wood, straw, cowpats, sugar cane waste etc for years and years. It's not much publicised but there is an (apparently) successful project going on at present where wood and coal are being burned together in some power stations in the UK. Biomass seems obvious - it's renewable, sustainable, relatively pollution free and if treated correctly, close to carbon neutral. Wind farms are all very well in the right place, in the right quantity and in moderation, but let's not pretend that they are the answer!
Judith Howell, London, UK

They're a physical representation of us doing something for our planet
Andy Puls, Manchester

I've lived and worked in a number of countries in Europe where they seem far more plentiful (Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands). For me they're the opposite of an eyesore, they're a physical representation of us doing something for our planet.
Andy Puls, Manchester

Wind farms are part of the solution. However there needs to be some sort of strategic planning in order to protect areas of outstanding natural beauty. We have many industrial areas that could be used and would have less opposition.
Jon Crosbie, Portsmouth, UK

It seems ironic that the 300+ wind turbines proposed for the Isle of Lewis - one of the least spoiled spots in Europe, can be labelled as an environmentally friendly proposition! I'm firmly against this form of renewable energy due to the impact it has on wildlife and the countryside.
Gareth Preece, Leeds

I think wind farms are a great idea. A huge wind farm was built near my home town in Iowa. The wind farm is near a town called Alta, Iowa. It isn't really that big of an eye sore. There was a proposed wind farm in Cambridgeshire that I have heard was rejected. I think Cambridgeshire is an ideal place in England, as there really aren't that many scenic views to be spoilt.
Chris Kummerfeld, Huntingdon, UK

We should be seriously addressing the demand side of the energy equation
Sarah P, Norfolk
Wind farms only take a small amount of land, but they take up a huge amount of landscape. If we are truly serious about climate change, which we should be, we should be seriously addressing the demand side of the energy equation where the problem starts.
Sarah P, Norfolk

Windy Wellington has had a prominent wind turbine overlooking the city for several years now, which has successfully raised the profile of wind energy. At the same time it's helped change people's perceptions of turbines. They don't have to be regarded as ugly, if they're sited in the right location.
Ethan Tucker, Wellington, New Zealand

Plans to build a wind farm in the Harrogate district have been delayed because of opposition. The people of Harrogate should take responsibility for their own waste (CO2). The Government should charge each district with its own CO2 reduction target either by energy efficiency or renewables. Also, the typical lease on a wind farm is 25 years. The damage we are doing will take centuries to correct, if at all. Lastly, if people were offered free fuel they would take it - wind is free!
Paul Teather, Harrogate

I don't think they affect the landscape
Christopher Wickens, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
I agree that there ought to be more wind farms in the UK. In my area we already have 2 wind farms, and I don't think they affect the landscape whatsoever.
Christopher Wickens, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

As Ruth Stanway says, we need as many green sources of power as we can manage - but I think that should include nuclear power. We need to develop a whole raft of ways of getting rid of fossil fuels, and being able to power our own houses, without the need for gas imports from politically unstable areas of the globe.
Nicholas, Burgess Hill, UK

Wind power is a potentially useful source of renewable energy. However, I don't really see why the government cannot promote modern small (and quiet) wind turbines which can be sited close to the demand for electricity (rather than many miles away as is the case in Lewis) and have none of the negative impacts in terms of visual intrusion or habitat loss that a large wind farm proposal does. Small turbines can make a significant contribution towards the householder's electricity needs and can even turn a profit in the right circumstances.
James Dawkins, Southampton, England

Yes I think it is vital for more wind farms in the UK. Locals have to look at the bigger picture. Climate change is a more significant problem than wind turbines affecting the landscape scenery.
James Arthur, Exeter City, Devon

Put them in the Docklands of London
Mike Wise, Wootton Bassett, UK
I believe there should be more renewable energy sources and wind farms could help provide this. I do not believe however that they should all be foisted on the countryside. The biggest users of electricity are the cities, therefore position wind farms where they support the majority. Put them in the Docklands of London and other major cities in the UK where they are most needed!
Mike Wise, Wootton Bassett, UK

It is hypocritical to support wind farms in principle but not agree with them when proposed nearby simply because of the aesthetics. If I were to go on a bike ride in the country and pass one or two wind farms on the way, surely that won't detract too much from the scenery of the whole trip? We should be proud, rather than ashamed of our wind farms.
Daniel Took, Wymondham, Norfolk, UK

I am a staunch environmentalist, and it is for that very reason that I oppose wind turbines. What happens when the wind doesn't blow? We rely on fossil fuels to plug the gap. Bite the bullet and accept that to combat climate change, cheap and clean nuclear energy is the only option.
Dave M, Brighton, UK

I think wind turbines look great and don't actually spoil our landscape. How can something so ecologically beautiful be thought of in this way when we already have eyesores like a nuclear power stations, factories and high-rise flats? I think they are the Concorde of the modern environmentally conscious world!
Kate Barrie, Glasgow

How farmers are helping the case

Windfarms, energy and politics
19 May 05 |  Election 2005

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