Running a rural business: He who sows the wind, reaps a typhoon

However, if you live and work near wind farms with more threatening to be established in the near future, they’re more than just a blot on the horizon. 
 
Now I am really into the concept of renewable and non-fossil energy.  I see this as the way forward.  I am the sort of person who is into this kind of thing. 

I studied environmental design as part of my university course and was very interested in nuclear and wave power in particular. I am even considering installing a (very tiny and domestic) wind turbine in the paddock behind our house to help power our lighting. And I really like the look of wind turbines. I think they are rather beautiful.
 
Not in my backyard
However, when I investigated these huge industrial wind turbines (which are sometimes several times taller than the local water tower) I was shocked to discover that I am not at all into the idea of on-shore wind farms, especially when they are only a mile or so away from people’s homes. 

There are so many reasons for this.  For one thing, they only have a life span of about 20-25 years.  During this time, ongoing maintenance is required due to moving parts which require servicing and repair. After 20-25 years the land on which they stood becomes a brown site. A huge amount of concrete that will probably no longer be useable.
 
And it’s not just the impact on humans we have to consider, what about the wildlife too?

I wonder how many birds are killed each year as a result of wind turbines?

According to David Harrison writing for The Sunday Telegraph in March 2004, thousands of birds die every year, including golden eagles.  http://www.sovereignty.org.uk/features/eco/vandaloot.html.

Silence is golden
Wind turbines can also be noisy, which doesn’t really fit with the image of peaceful, idyllic country life. 

My husband is a highly-qualified sound engineer and looked into the noise issue upon reading the papers connected with a local application.

Apparently, the computer models that predict sound levels use very general assumptions but in reality the way sound behaves is very complex so no-one can be sure that the sound at any point is what it’s predicted to be. 

So the margin of error could be quite extreme. 

The bottom line is that there is absolutely no way that anybody can say for sure how much noise will be generated by a wind turbine.  There is no scientific way of performing this calculation with any degree of accuracy.  So it could well be that people living or working a couple of miles away WILL hear these turbines. 

Can you even imagine what that would be like?  The constant drone of all night ‘whirr whirr whirr’ when you are trying to sleep?  I certainly don’t want noise like that disturbing us in our rurally-located business.
 
But the most troubling issue for me is that they just don’t generate very much electricity for such a huge amount of potential problems.  I don’t think that they are value for money in energy terms.
 
The UK has signed up to the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which means that by 2020, 15% of energy in the UK needs to be from renewable sources. 

This will mean that in some areas, renewable energy will need to increase by as much as seven times.

When it comes to wind as a solution for this, offshore wind farms appear to be a great idea as there is plenty of space, plenty of wind and people don’t generally mind them too much when they are far out at sea. 

However in Hertfordshire, where l live and work and where there isn’t even enough space for housing, it is a completely impractical way to generate energy.  Planning applications seem to be appearing all the time for wind turbines – often very close to where people actually live and work.
 
Several sets of really, really nice and intelligent farmers I know are putting their own fields forward as potential sites for wind farms.  They can make some much-needed money that way.  And it is easy for them to think themselves round to the positive benefits when there is a large cheque at the end of it for them. 

But I bet those same people would be thinking rather differently if it was their neighbour’s field and not their own that was being considered, or if the form of energy was nuclear rather than wind.
 
I haven’t looked into it personally but I would love to perform a lifecycle analysis to determine the energy spent building, installing, maintaining and finally dismantling a wind turbine on-shore, compared with the amount of power it will generate during its life.  I’m willing to bet it doesn’t really add up, all things considered.

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