Don Quixote

You don’t like windmills? Call them turbines if you like, although to me they don’t look much like jet engines.

There’s no denying their effect on the scenery, although whether they’re attractive or unattractive is a matter of opinion.

But we have a choice.

We could do away with the electricity supply
We can have nuclear power stations – if we don’t care about the future
Or coal fired power stations – if we don’t care about the future
Or gas fired power stations – if we don’t care about the future
Or windmills and solar panels*.

There’s no denying the effect of windmills on the scenery.

But...

“They’re dangerous,” is just nonsense. Yes, there are possible hazards, but they’re tiny compared to almost any other generating technology.

“They kill birds and bats,” is disingenuous. We don’t ban cars, lorries or aeroplanes, which kill far more.

“They’re noisy,” is disingenuous. We don’t ban cars, lorries or aeroplanes, which are far noisier.

“You’ll have to cover the whole country with them,” isn’t really true either. Yes, there’ll have to be a lot of them, and they’ll certainly have an effect on the scenery in the areas that have them, but the farming beneath them will carry on as if nothing had changed.

Then there’s those solar panels. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to cover up valuable farmland or wild habitat with them, but for not very much more cost we could put them over car parks, and keep your car cool into the bargain; or over roads, and keep the glare of a low sun out of drivers’ eyes. We can cover existing roofs with them. We can construct new roofs using them instead of other roofing materials, if someone puts a bit of design effort into it.

If we roofed over everywhere that has streetlights with them, there’d be one minor but lovely benefit: a major reduction in light pollution of the night sky. We’d be able to see the stars – and the Milky Way – properly again. Obviously the roof design ought to let a reasonable amount of daylight in!

For more about why nuclear power is such a bad idea, see Nuclear Power?

For more about why coal and gas power is such a bad idea, see Global Warming.

If you’re worried about the intermittency of wind and solar power, see Wind and Sun: Intermittency.

If someone’s told you that the construction of wind turbines and solar power plants produces as much carbon dioxide as a fossil fuel plant, it’s complete twaddle. You don’t have to take my word for that – see the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s PostNote 268. (My objections to nuclear have nothing to do with its carbon footprint, which is quite small.)

* There are some other “green” sources of energy – such as waves, tides & ocean currents, perhaps geothermal – and they might make useful contributions. But wind and sun are the biggies. The potential of either of them on its own completely dwarfs humankind's current energy consumption. See Sun and Wind: The Size of the Resource.

 

Smøla Windpark, near Kristiansund, Norway.




Looking straight up an Ecotricity wind turbine at Swaffham, Norfolk.