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  1. Wealth
August 7, 2009

Blow me over

By Spear's

So as one energy company is looking to grace the fields around the small village in Northamptonshire where I live with these strong silent types, who could possibly object? Well, me actually. And if you think about it, you too.

Windmill. The very word evokes a cool, gentle breeze across one’s frantic mind. Long romanticised they are the stuff of affectionate cartoon characters (think Windy Miller) and the epitome of glorious English paintings (ponder John Constable).

Their sails purr through the air turning the natural wind into energy for milling, pumping water and more. Today those windmills, the survivors converted into charming homes, have made way for more modern contraptions. The windmill has become the windfarm. The sails have turned to blades, the sloping wooden sides like a countrymen’s smock to vast, tall and sleek towers.

Where once they were the quaint workhouses of the 18th century watercolour they now more resemble a sculpture by Antony Gormley. They rise up from fields like a thousand Angels of the North.

Who can fail to gaze at them with awe driving down the country’s roads; those high on Soutra, just south of Edinburgh on the A68, or others in Cumbria on the M6. They work while the wind blows. No fossil fuel, no nuclear waste. Just a stunning, gently humming antidote to global warming. Indeed the climate change secretary, Ed Milliband, has voiced his seal of approval saying that opposition to wind farms should be as socially unacceptable as failing to wear a seatbelt.

So as one energy company is looking to grace the fields around the small village in Northamptonshire where I live with these strong silent types, who could possibly object?

Well, me actually. And if you think about it, you too.

The cost of producing wind power is greater than other methods. That means you, the consumer, will have to pay more. The cost to the government meanwhile is zero. Every windfarm that is constructed by a private company gets the government’s own responsibility to construct alternative plants off the hook. Except, however, that it doesn’t. Because the irregularity of wind-power generation requires the turbines to be backed up by nuclear power and coal.

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And let’s take a look at the idea that windfarms provide clean energy. Well they do, except you have to build them and when they come to the end of their life you have to destroy them. The carbon emissions produced by their manufacture and deconstruction, coupled with the shipping, erecting and servicing for them rules out any carbon offset.

But what of the local environmental impact? The construction of these towers will be accompanied not just by tons of concrete at their bases but by a patchwork of new roads so they can be serviced by heavy machinery.

And unless you crave life on a Tellytubby sound stage, the views, uninterrupted by pylons or any glimmer of industrialised Britain, will be ruined. Turbines aren’t just big, the proposed turbines are 130 metres tall. That’s two and a half times the size of Nelson’s column. And we can’t even put a hero on the top.

Of all the exposed coastal, or remote mountainous regions of Britain why has Enertrag chosen the little unspoilt plot of land between the villages of Weston and Sulgrave for their nine turbines?

Possibly because the plot is owned by someone who doesn’t live there. It’s the property of All Souls College, Oxford. And this absent landlord would make around £90,000 per annum from leasing the land. Nice money if you can get it.

And then just remember these few points. The turbines don’t work when it’s not windy enough and they don’t work if it’s too windy. There is also new evidence from a leading American paediatrician that that living too close to wind turbines can cause heart disease, tinnitus, vertigo, migraines and sleep deprivation. Wind turbine syndrome (WTS) is the disruption or abnormal stimulation of the inner ear’s vestibular system by turbine infrasound and low-frequency noise.

Still keen on having one put up near you because you’re not bothered if they reduce property prices or frighten the horses?

Windy Miller would be turning in his, er, windmill.

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