Wind turbines have “grace & beauty”?

The proposed wind farm opposed inter alia by the National Trust

The proposed wind farm opposed inter alia by the National Trust

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  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.

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16 Responses to Wind turbines have “grace & beauty”?

  1. Jane Davies says:

    I totally agree with your views on these dreadful windmills Roger……but your views on fracking? As you know we will never agree on that one!

    • rfhmep says:

      Ah Jane! I wish that energy grew on trees. But all energy technologies have downsides. None of the down-sides, however, is worth having the lights going out. The problem with wind farms (apart from the aesthetic affront) is that they simply fail to deliver.

  2. matthu says:

    Thanks for reminding me to cross NT off my list of donations.
    Alongside Oxfam, Christian Aid and the rest of those green lobbyists.

    • M Davis says:

      Don’t forget to withold your money to the politicised RSPCA, for wasting donators money on trying to prosecute fox hunters, i.e. Camerons lot, just because the RSPCA are rabid Socialists!.

      • rfhmep says:

        I agree with both. Interesting question: If you really want to make the world a better place, which charity (if any) should you support? I support (in a small way) my local church (because I don’t want to see it fall apart — but I don’t contribute to the Church nationally), and the Retired Greyhound Trust. Any suggestions? I suppose Help for Heroes is the obvious choice.

      • Jane Davies says:

        The Salvation Army came out top of a survey a couple of years ago because they use the highest percentage of the donation funds collected for their charitable works.

  3. e pryor says:

    Standing penisis have a grace and beauty and are more usefull but should they be shown all over the landscape?

  4. Philip Richens says:

    Dame Helen’s comments are very frustrating for anyone who lives in or loves the countryside. Thanks for your response.

  5. How can grown up people actually invest our future into wind power? I struggle to comprehend the sheer stupidity of it. Only one degree worse is sun power when the sun is carefully switched off every night when I take my bath.
    What we need – urgently – is some batteries. If we got batteries, then we could store the wind power up and let is out when Coronation Street ended. Any inventors out there please?

    • DougS says:

      We already have batteries Mike.

      I know this because I was assured by a young lady on the telephone who was attempting to sell me some solar panels. When I mentioned that they stopped working every night she assured me that the battery would take over – so it must be true………mustn’t it?

      • rfhmep says:

        We need to keep an open mind on this. Battery technology is developing (though Boeing have had some problems with it). It may well be that in thirty years time we may have an efficient way of storing electrical power in industrial quantities (pumped water works, but its scope is limited and it’s not very effcient). At the same time we may get the efficiency of solar PV up to say 50% instead of 12%. At that time it would make sense to look for non-intrusive ways of developing solar. But to do it now, without storage, is nuts.

    • E.A. says:

      I strongly disagree about solar power being nearly as bad as wind. It can be done on all sorts of scales, as small as powering calculators or radios. Much more flexible and portable than wind power. The loss of solar power at night isn’t a deal-breaker, you just get as much as you can during the day, and it’s generally more reliable than wind.

      Nighttime used to be an automatic rest period for most species. The 24/7 modern world is the real anomaly. 50% of something (give or take) is better than you-know-what. Solar panels on rooftops don’t add to landscape ruination like wind turbines do. I consider solar in a different ethical category, though big desert arrays are worrisome. At least they lack the giant vertical footprint of wind turbines, and one could try to pretend they’re glistening lakes.

  6. Mike says:

    I trust that Simon Jenkins, who probably appointed Ms Ghosh ( as Patten did with Entwistle ?) will have a herst to heart with the lady. Defra and the Home Office are not like the NT – where we Members put the countryside first – and who also pay Ms Ghosh’s £160k pa on top of her civil service pension..

    Would Simon Jenkins like to calrify NT Policy on Turbines ? Might he like to define sites where he finds that turbines are /are planned for the “right place” ?

  7. Kevin Algar says:

    Reblogged this on A Riverside View and commented:
    “turbines have “Grace and beauty”, and that the Trust will oppose them only when they threaten historical landscapes.” Can she define what a “Historical landscape” is?

  8. John Hancon says:


    There is some interesting work going on using Vanadium Redox battery technology. They have been under development for a long time, initially with problems of electrolyte degradation and requiring tight operational temperature control. A modification of the initial electrolyte appears to have solved those problems. They are around 90% efficient and are suitable for large scale energy storage. There is still work to be done to bring the price down to commercially viable levels.

  9. E.A. says:

    I am baffled that so many “environmentalists” throw aesthetic values to the wind when it comes to gigantic white skyscrapers that also kill birds and bats. In presentations they often show wind turbines in the distance like mere Tinkertoys with foreground objects exaggerated. They must be aware of their scale and deviously downplay it. Distant turbines are always going to be near some other location!

    They also pretend that turbines don’t ADD cumulative man-made blight to nature, citing existing power plants as ugly, even though they are far less numerous than wind “farms” that web thousands of acres per installation. Honest people see that wind turbines are drastically increasing the human footprint, which isn’t just about carbon. I’m no climate denier but it’s not suddenly the only environmental problem. Man is chewing up nature like termites eating a house and there are many forms of pollution besides excess CO2. Visual pollution and noise pollution are being widely disseminated by wind turbines.

    Pseudo-conservationists have decided that the landscape itself is no longer integral to the total environment, which is traitorous to the original purpose of environmentalism; to protect the land, water, air and other species from human impact. Among the wind turbine crowd, the mantra of energy sustainability has replaced respect for nature itself. It’s as if nothing matters now but power generation. We’re supposed to accept ruined landscapes as mere collateral damage? How can anyone who cares about quality of life be so mono-causal?

    I wouldn’t mind wind turbines in the midst of a tall urban skyline and could admire them as a technological achievement in that setting. But they are rarely located where the power is used. In their true context, they loom over rural and wild areas and wreck the ancient character of such places. Calling them “beautiful” is like saying thousands of scattered 40-story office buildings would look fine in the countryside. It’s a visual taste nobody should be forced to acquire. It would be a major quality of life issue even if they weren’t so intermittent and inefficient (economic arguments against them are secondary to me). They are just too large and stark, their spinning causes distractions, and they intrude on both day and night horizons with flashing red lights. Why does their jarring impact need to be explained to people who ostensibly respect nature? The idea that you can’t be “green” unless you put up with landscape carnage is a paradox that will never make sense.

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