It seems that the National Trust has gone seriously off-message. Chairman Sir Simon Jenkins took a very clear line in opposing wind turbines on both aesthetic and practical grounds. Under his stewardship, the Trust joined forces with CPRE, English Heritage and East Northants District Council and decided to call the Inspector’s bluff, and take an appeal to the High Court in the case of Barnwell Manor/Lyveden New Bield (above). We expect the final ruling this week.
I wrote about this epic battle last May.
Objectors have been encouraged by the recent decision in Yorkshire to turn down a turbine application in the heart of Brontë country, establishing for the first time that in that case at least, heritage trumps climate alarmism.
So it was doubly disappointing to read in the press on Feb 25th that the National Trust’s new Director General Dame Helen Ghosh, who took over in November, has vouchsafed the view that turbines have “Grace and beauty”, and that the Trust will oppose them only when they threaten historical landscapes. I was immediately moved to Tweet “Not grace and beauty. Waste and subsidy”. Speaking as UKIP’s Energy Spokesman, and as a Life Member of the National Trust, I absolutely reject and repudiate Dame Helen’s view.
Of course I concede that aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder, and that different people may take different views, but I think that rather few people will feel that these industrial-scale structures are an appropriate feature in any English landscape, historical or not. My experience working with many wind farm protest groups suggest that I am not alone in this view.
Dame Helen opines that “We need to have our minds open to how the wind turbine will appear in 100 years”. So let me explain, Dame Helen, why we need to do no such thing. The design life of a wind turbine is 25 years. But that is hugely optimistic. They’ll be lucky to get 20 years on-shore, and less in the harsh and corrosive off-shore environment. And in twenty years’ time, Dame Helen, we shall be over the current mass climate-change hysteria. We shall finally have realised that what you think you gain on intermittent renewables, you actually lose on the inefficiencies of fossil fuel back-up run intermittently. We shall have seen that our high energy prices are driving business and investment and jobs offshore, and forcing pensioners into fuel poverty www.affordable-energy.eu. And we shall have reverted to grown-up energy generation, and abandoned playground technologies like wind.
As the Renewable Energy Foundation memorably put it, “Wind farms are garden ornaments, not power stations”. Let’s just hope that in a hundred years’ time the rusting hulks of old turbines have finally been removed (and no doubt cannibalised for the rare earths in their magnets).
Dame Helen spent her formative years at the Environment Department, so I suppose her blind commitment to renewable energy is predictable. But it is nonetheless wrong. It is time she realised that intermittent renewables depend absolutely on fossil fuel back-up. That back-up has to be run intermittently to compensate for wind variability. And that is an hugely inefficient way to run a power plant. So what you gain (or think you gain) on the wind generation, you throw away on the gas plants.
This is doubly inefficient. Firstly wind turbine operators demand massive subsidies for running wind at all (plus extra when they are turned off because the wind is too high, or the output is surplus), but the gas operators too are demanding “capacity payments” to stand idle, waiting for the wind to drop.
Wind farms are ugly, wasteful and expensive. They are undermining our economy while they desecrate our countryside. It’s time to call a halt.