06.07.2012 - 'Reasons for hating wind farms'

Published the week after Elspeth's letter to The Buteman Mr Colin Stewart from Glasgow suggests several 'Reasons for hating wind farms'.

Read on for Mr Stewart's letter and our response.

©The Buteman

Mr Stewart amusingly plays on Adrian's assertion that a small number of anti-turbine campaigners will make a 'disproportionate' noise.

Judging by another letter to The Buteman this week and much of the evidence presented to Holyrood recently (see Vattenfall and Community Energy Scotland) this would certainly appear to be the case.

The author then goes on to suggest that 'A developer buys some wilderness land preferably on a hill for a low price, then applies to build a wind farm which he knows will be rubber stamped by a misguided Scottish Government regardless of local protests.'

Well, the protests are certainly coming through but it is implausible to suggest that planning decisions will be 'rubber stamped'. Our experience of going through Scoping Opinions and Reports with Argyll & Bute Council suggests anything but and a vast amount of work has gone in to an Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposals which is just about complete.

What Mr Stewart really seems to object to (a 'fact' common to pretty well all anti-wind energy campaigns) is the idea of 'public subsidy' or 'taxpayer' money going to line the pockets of wind farm developers.

The political right likes to argue that giant 'subsidies' have created the 'wind monstrosities'. But anyone with half a mind can see that subsidies to nuclear generation (let alone decommissioning of plant and the indefinite storage of waste) - and decades of subsidy for fossil fuel burning - have created a far from level playing field!

There are two other important factors to consider at Ascog Farm:
  1. If planning is granted the project (estimated cost ca.£3.5 million) will be funded by us with commercial borrowing, so the risk is all ours. We're not just landowners taking the developer's coin!
  2. In contrast to most wind energy developments put down by large power companies we have committed to returning a significant proportion of the revenue from the project to the local community.
There is not a great deal of entrepreneurial development on Bute. Many young people leave the Island for lack of opportunity and there seems amongst the letter writers to The Buteman a desire for tourism alone - a sector in long term decline on the Island - to sustain the economy.

The strong wind resource at Ascog - and elsewhere on Bute - offers a real opportunity to actually generate money locally for the benefit of the community, hopefully creating jobs in the process.

As the Department for Business Innovation and Skills has reported, the Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services market is one of the few sectors of the UK economy that has actually experienced growth.

According to The Guardian the sector was worth £122 billion in 2011 and the government expects growth of 'between 4.9 per cent and 5.5 per cent a year from 2011 to 2015'.

What anti-wind campaigners will never admit to is that they themselves basically don't like the look of wind turbines, despite research from numerous sources (VisitScotland, Scottish Tourist Authority, many others indexed by Google) suggesting that the majority of people are warm or, at worst, indifferent to their appearance.

Consequently we get the sort of rubbish trotted out by Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson suggesting the rape of the land, destruction of tourism, danger from 'Wind Turbine Syndrome' and so on.

In this regard it is no surprise to see Mr Stewart allude to 'noise' problems, another favourite old chestnut of the anti-wind brigade.

Of course, if one searches the Internet and alights upon the many anti-wind protest groups, there would appear to be a lot of substance to these claims.

However, if one looks at peer-reviewed literature a different pattern emerges:

This study would seem to suggest that 'While it is acknowledged that noise from wind turbines can be annoying to some and associated with some reported health effects (e.g., sleep disturbance), especially when found at sound pressure levels greater than 40 db(A), given that annoyance appears to be more strongly related to visual cues and attitude than to noise itself, self reported health effects of people living near wind turbines are more likely attributed to physical manifestation from an annoyed state than from wind turbines themselves. In other words, it appears that it is the change in the environment that is associated with reported health effects and not a turbine-specific variable like audible noise or infrasound.'

In other words, if you don't like wind turbines you're more than likely to make yourself ill dislking them!

People in this camp would do well to stand anywhere near the existing sewage treatment plant at the bottom of the Hill of Ascog and listen to background noise levels. This is a big electrical installation running 24/7 and noise from turbines would not come anywhere near to matching it!

The EIA will, of course, include a detailed and scientific analysis of noise impacts measured in accordance with established standards.