Yesterday I got an e-mail from Melvin Grosvenor, the redoubtable Chairman of BWAG, the Baumber Wind Farm Action Group, with a link to BBC I-Player, to an interview he’d done with Peter Levy on BBC Radio Humberside. Baumber is of course in Lincolnshire and within the Humberside footprint.
In the interview, Levy used a well-known device, the “forced choice”, to try to limit Melvin’s options and put him in a box. It’s a trick I learned on my sales training over forty years ago. We used to call it “the alternative close”. It goes like this: “Would you like the red one or the yellow one?”. It already pre-supposes that the client will buy one or the other, and makes it just slightly more difficult to say “Neither, thank you”.
In this case, Levy said (near as I can remember) “Come on. Make up your mind. Are you just a NIMBY, protesting because you don’t want a wind farm in your village? Or are you objecting to wind farms generally?”. Fortunately Melvin is too smart to fall for that one. It is perfectly reasonable and consistent to object on both grounds. I don’t want the country’s economy and energy security to be compromised by an excessive commitment to wind power, and I also don’t want a wind farm close to my home.
On a local basis, wind farms are a gross visual intrusion into some of our finest landscapes. They represent entirely inappropriate industrial development in the countryside. They cause well-documented health problems with penetrating, low-frequency sound, strobe effects and flicker. They depress property values, and blight homes and lives and communities.
On a national basis, they are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable. On-shore wind farms produce only around 25% of their rated capacity – some much less. They produce an intermittent trickle of very expensive electricity. Their supply is neither consistent nor predictable. They sit still in low winds. They must be turned off to prevent damage in very high winds.
The industry tries to ignore the fact that an intermittent supply requires constant conventional back-up, fired up and ready to go. This is usually gas, which is readily variable. But because the gas-fired power station is backing-up an intermittent source, it too has to run irregularly and intermittently. This is hugely inefficient. It costs more, and emits more CO2, than continuous running. These extra costs and downsides are ignored by wind advocates.
It gets worse. Electricity can’t be stored. The Grid has to balance supply and demand very accurately in real time. So on those occasions when supply exceeds demand, the contracts of wind farm operators provide for them being paid to switch off.
All these factors result in higher costs, which we see today in our domestic electricity bills, and which will increase over the years. These costs also impact on British industry, reducing our competitiveness.
So yes. We oppose them both locally and nationally.
Levy also asked “But we all accept the need for renewable energy, so what alternatives can you offer?”. No we don’t. We could power Britain reliably for the foreseeable future with coal and nuclear. Renewables may have a part to play, but only at the margin, and only if they make economic sense. Hydro is good. Ground source heat and anaerobic digestion may be good (I haven’t studied the economics). Solar is appealing but very expensive. Waste incineration with energy recovery has great potential, and is much cleaner than many people fear. But wind makes little sense off-shore, and none on-shore. It is simply gesture politics, salving the consciences of the chattering classes who are convinced we should “do something”. Meantime the credibility of climate alarmism, on which the whole drive to wind depends, is increasingly questioned.
The worst factor of all is that Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is so dazzled by the wind lobby that he seems to have forgotten the need for conventional back-up, and doesn’t seem to be building the gas capacity that would be required with a major wind commitment. He boasts that “The lights won’t go out on my watch”. That can only be true if his watch is a very short one – which as Shakespeare might have said, is a consummation devoutly to be wished.