In my piece about wind turbines, I proffered an opinion that I didn't care for them based primarily on their appearance and the fact that they really do detract from our beautiful landscapes and seascapes, for me that is unquestionable.
This, in addition to the suggestion that apparently they are not in fact very efficient.
The response I received to this blog post was of a magnitude that I could never have imagined.
In the days following the publication of my post, it was viewed around 3000 times and I was inundated with messages and comments from people on both sides of the debate, all of whom had extremely strong opinions, often based on their own personal experiences of living close to these turbines.
I have tried to remain open minded to both sides in this contentious matter, those in favour of the turbines who promote their 'green' and sustainable merits – and those against them who raised some very worrying statistics about the machines.
While I remained very willing to hear about the wind machines' good points, I am afraid that the pro-turbine people have generally been the ones who have shouted the loudest, said that they 'love' the wind turbines for no particular reason and generally come up with some rather thin arguments when confronted with objections from the anti-turbine lobby; statements like “cars kill more birds than turbines” and “I'd have one in my garden if I could” really don't impress me much. Not only do they miss the point but they appear to be very flippant in the context of such a potentially serious problem.
I will not be swayed by political bias either. I have noticed that many contributors to the anti-turbine debate, which has been taking place on both facebook (where my blog post was shared) and on my blog itself, are affiliated to political movements and parties whose line seems to be to oppose the turbines at all costs. I am fully aware of this and remain wary of allowing politics to influence my own thoughts and opinions. While I also know that political involvement is a major way to bring about change, I feel that some people might have other agendas and might be piggybacking on the genuine concern that many people have about the ethics, safety and efficiency of wind farms and their very real worry about the continued expansion.
However, after weighing up each and every argument for and against, I stand by my instinctive dislike of the wind turbines. That is not to say that I am necessarily against the technology on a small scale, I have seen many successful small turbines attached to dwellings that are far removed from the national grid – these work, are not a blot on the landscape and provide a modest amount of back up energy when required. They can take up less space than a lamppost and are a different animal altogether from the giant turbines.
So I have decided to try to summarise some of the key points that I have learnt here after collating opinions from the many people who have contacted me.
Wind turbines are most certainly NOT green. It's a common misconception because they are marketed as such.
In fact the manufacture and installation of many turbines actively results in contamination to natural environments both here and overseas. This is in part due to the fact that minerals known collectively as 'rare earth' are used in the production of many turbines (as well as mobile phones, electric cars and other technological goods).
Many of the factories that process these minerals are in Mongolia and China. It is desperately worrying that where once there were green fields and lakes teeming with life, there are now toxic wastelands and vast ponds filled with poisons and radioactive materials, by-products of the manufacturing processes.
Closer to home, the installation of the turbines themselves presents challenges, large amounts of concrete and steel out at sea being just one of the drawbacks in constructing the turbine fields .
The real and direct threat to wildlife must not be underestimated. Significant numbers of birds and bats are killed by turbines every day of the week, many of them rare and endangered species which cannot survive any dip in their numbers. Some of these species are protected by law and yet no action is taken to ensure that they are safe. No action practically can be taken while the turbines exist.... while an individual purposefully harming a protected bird would be prosecuted, the logistics of taking companies to court over the mass killing of the same creatures means that it is unlikely to happen.
There is also some evidence that marine mammals are being affected by the turbines.
In less than one month last year, no less than 29 Sperm Whales were stranded and died on English, German and Dutch beaches....in an area with the highest concentration of wind turbines. While there is much debate over the cause of the whales' deaths, there is also evidence that the acoustic pollution from wind farms can interfere with whale communication and navigation.
I have heard directly from people with experience of living in the shadow of land based wind farms too. Some have become desperately distressed by both the noise and the intrusion on the landscape. Many are fighting to protect areas of natural beauty in their communities which are threatened by new banks of turbines.
And the turbines are getting bigger.
There are many suggestions for turbine design that might have less impact both on wildlife and the environment – but are they in production? Or will they be any time soon?
I don't know the answer to this. Perhaps someone in the know can enlighten me.
Meanwhile large coastal installations are proudly being sold to communities as being both environmentally friendly and an efficient source of energy – two points that I have learnt are very contentious indeed.
So, all in all, I remain totally unconvinced as to the merits of the things. Reading the many many comments and messages I have received since writing the post, I can say that there are a huge number of folks out there who are very worried, angry and distressed over the plans for continued expansion of wind farms around the world. Protest groups abound but they are fighting big business, government subsidies and local planning authorities who may have less than honourable motives for granting permission to blot our landscapes and seascapes further.
So my feelings have not changed. I remain open to hearing intelligent discussion about the issue.
Please, if you do comment, be polite and refrain from insults. Following my earlier post, there were some very strong views expressed but I will remove any comments which might be deemed inappropriately aggressive on either side of the argument.
Please be kind and constructive.
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