Sunday, February 19, 2012
Why renewable energy is about more than just wind turbines
The East Riding of Yorkshire is a great part of the UK for harnessing renewable energy, and the skilled workforce to manufacture the means to do so. The area is somewhat windy and as a largely agricultural part of the country is capable of producing biomass. But of equal significance, the southern border is formed by the tidal rivers of the Ouse and Humber with the North Sea to the east - the sea and rivers are used to ship parts for wind turbines, but as very predictable sources of renewable energy themselves, they continue to remain untapped.
On-shore wind turbines in the East Riding of Yorkshire have a devastating effect on rural communities and moreover, have proven to be inefficient and unreliable, so it is very frustrating that there is such emphasis on them whilst so much potential remains unexploited in our rivers and the North Sea.
To put things into perspective, one only needs to consider the 4,000 megawatt Drax power station providing the backdrop to the twelve turbine Rusholme wind farm on the banks of the River Ouse. Depending on the criteria used, it would take anything up to 4,000 of these wind turbines to replace the power supplied by Drax – and that's provided the wind was blowing.
Over recent years, the Council has seen an increasing number of wind farm applications with the wind farm companies having taken what appears to be a cynical approach as they collectively built up a portfolio of approved planning applications for turbines, yet without beginning construction of any significant number. That is up until now. What we are now beginning to see is an invasion of turbines by stealth. People will soon realise that they are to be living in a wind turbine landscape as many of the permitted turbines are constructed, and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.
In the late 1990s we saw the then Prime Minister posing, posturing and being photographed in front of wind turbines in order to demonstrate his ‘Green’ credentials. They 'ticked the box', and whether the machines worked or not was of little importance - it was all about image. Needless to say, subsequent Prime Ministers have continued in the same vain. Unfortunately, wave and tidal power technologies are installed in, or under the water where they are not easy to see, and the link between growing crops for biomass is difficult to capture in a photograph – these alternative methods of energy creation are somewhat less camera-friendly than wind turbines when trying to convey that all important green image.
It takes a great deal of courage to say we’ve got this wrong, especially when so much stock has been put into creating an illusion of 'greenness'. But does it make sense to hobble along with heavily subsidised wind technology that clearly neither offers solutions to energy security, nor protecting the environment and producing cheaper electricity?
What is required is an injection of realism and fairness. Renewables? Yes, but only when it is a balanced and a level playing field created on which there are those same financial incentives for the development of wave, tidal and biomass.
I fully support the stance taken by 100 Tory MPs who recently sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for a reduction in the subsidies given to wind energy.