AN ILL WIND - AN OBJECTION AGAINST WINDFARMS IN IRELAND



Nigel Barnes


CONTENTS


Acknowledgements

Of many persons who have helped me both in my windpower objections and specifically with information for this website, my especial thanks to:

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Introduction

This website is for all of you who want to know more about windfarms. It may be for educational purposes, it may be that a wind ‘farm’ is proposed in your area and you want to know more about it, or maybe you are already objecting to a proposal and want more information. The windpower technology has advanced over the last couple of decades, bringing with it an industry which relies on its enormous size to produce enough electricity to provide the required profits. Whether this electricity production has any real benefit on our everyday lives, on the energy demands of the nation, or on the greenhouse effect, remains to be seen, and will be addressed in the following text. As will its adverse effect on communities, on flora and fauna, and the environment both locally and globally. The industry has recently been overhyped and overadvertised, mainly because of wellmeaning concerns about global warming and green energy. This site is not meant to discredit such ideals, in fact, they are to be encouraged; what is to be discouraged is manipulating such ideals and popular notions to promulgate an industry which delivers very little, if any, of what it preaches and which plays down or ignores many of its adverse effects. This imbalance will be redressed here. Everywhere these days we see posters and advertisements of wind turbines shot against a bucolic background, or the sea, with slogans preaching its cleanliness and its green affinity. In this website we shall delve beneath this glossy veneer to reveal exactly what windpower entails.

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Windpower Myths Exploded

The windpower industry is fiercely jealous of its raison d'etre, and reacts angrily against criticism, no matter how indirect, on one side belittling the arguments and on the other often discrediting the critical group. BWEA (British Wind Energy Association) even produced a web page as a method of undermining one such group and in an attempt to negate its arguments. Had raw nerves been touched? Or was there something else, something deeper, which prompted such an overreaction?

A glance through pro-windpower literature soon demonstrates the same old tired regurgitated arguments which hold no water, the same over-exaggerated figures, the same environmental nonsense and the same refusal to admit the slightest point of view running contrary to their ideals. However, on this site, browbeating and bully-boy tactics have no place. And so let us begin with a list of these tired arguments mentioned earlier, and let us from the start dispel some myths. Remembering that it seems to be a historical aberration for windpower supporters to misuse and misapply scientific and technical facts.

For evidence to support all the points raised below, see the Text of 'An Ill Wind'.

  1. Turbines are reliable. FALSE. For proof, read the statitics for component failures in the Physical Danger section. See also the photographs of broken turbines and blades, if optical assurance is required. Visit the Altamont area of California, where turbines stand stationery, sometimes bladeless, by the sides of the road. Note also the increased risk of lightning hits.
  2. Turbines are efficient. FALSE. Manufacturers continually underrate the efficiency of turbines, which is on average 25-30%. There is linked to the intermittency problem; no wind = no electricity. As an example of turbine efficiency, 9369 produce only 1.7% of Germany's power, and this itself may be an exaggerated figure (qv).
  3. Windfarms do not use much space. FALSE. The power plant utilises significantly more space than any other form of power plant. Per kWh produced, this space required is totally disproportionate. Apart from the turbine siting, space is also wastes with construction of access roads, 'improvements' of existing roads, and the erection of substations, interpretative centres, etc.
  4. Windfarms reduce pollution. FALSE. The miniscule amount of electricity produced is swallowed by industrial growth. Pollution is produced by traffic and construction in the construction and dismantling phases of windfarm development; also to a large degree in manufacturing industries which produce wind turbine components.
  5. Electricity from wind energy avoids emissions from coal and other fossil-fuelled electric generating plants. FALSE. Because of industrial growth, the electrical output is swallowed and in fact more fossil fuels are burned. Because wind turbines produce only intermittently, other generating plants have to be immediately available - either running at less than full capacity or in 'spinning reserve' - to supply electricity when the wind drops or disappears. The backup plants still produce emissions while in this backstopping mode.*
  6. The electricity produced by windfarms is significant. FALSE. A glance at the table summarising power outputs internationally shows how pathetically small this contribution is. This amount will gradually grind to a halt in the face of growing adverse public opinion, and the dwindling of available sites (it is already difficult to get permits in Germany). The small amounts of electricity produced is illustrated by the fact that it would take 1904 new 750kW wind turbines operating at 28% capacity factor to produce as much electricity as one 500MW gas-fired combined cycle base-load generating plant with an 80% capacity factor.*
  7. The generating capacity of a turbine (eg kW or MW) is important. MISLEADING. Such ratings merely show how much electricity could be produced at an instant in time IF the wind is blowing at the right speed - which seldom occurs. A wind turbine produces nothing if windspeed isn't within the right speed range. On average, newer wind turbines produce electricity annually in the range of 25-30% of their 'rated' kW or MW capacity.
  8. Turbines are 'green' and make a significant impact on reducing global warming. FALSE. Turbines have several negative environmental impacts. Because production is so tiny, it is swallowed by industrial growth, so greenhouse gases in fact increase even in well developed nations. Construction, dismantling, and the component manufacturing industry increase greenhouse gases. Windfarms cause industrialisation of rural uplands.
  9. The oft-cited 'number of houses served' by a windfarm is a meaningful number. FALSE. 'Homes' aren't really being served because the small amounts of electricity produced by windfarms is available only when the wind is blowing within the right speed range. Also, the numbers cited are always a tiny fraction of the homes that require electricity. Furthermore, 'homes' account for 35% of the elctricity used in America. What about the other 65%?*
  10. Turbines are silent. FALSE. On average, noise at source is the equivalent of a motor cycle. Noise is exaggerated by the silence in rural areas. See Letters for public reaction. In Tralee, a resident described the noise as 'brutal'. One turbine manufacturer states that dwellings should be 2km away.
  11. Turbines are not visually polluting. FALSE. Most refusals at planning are for visual impact. Finland has refused windpower for the same reason. Wind'farms' are industrial plants high in scenic areas, and may be seen for many km. Uplands and turbines are an inappropriate juxtaposition.
  12. Turbines are safe. FALSE. Several have collapsed (see Photographs), there are dangers of ice and blade throws, increased risk of lightning strikes and forest fires.
  13. Developers care about the environment and are not interested in subsidies. FALSE. Developers do not come from 'green' backgrounds, they are mostly businessmen. As for subsidies - (a) the Californian windrush (1981-5) ended when subsidies were dropped (b) look at the latest demands by the Irish Wind Energy Association (qv) (c) let us hear of wind developers donating these unwanted subsidies to, say, charities.
  14. Windfarms create jobs. FALSE. Windfarms require few people for day-to-day maintenance. The manufacturing industry, however, needs workers, but in many countries this is subsidised by the governments in R&D etc.
  15. Windfarms stimulate tourism. FALSE. Continuous assessment suggests tourism figures fall after novelty interest has dimmed, leaving school trips for 'educational purposes'. Some tourist boards have actively opposed windfarms. Anecdotal evidence suggests figures for standing tourism may fall. Planning departments wish windfarms to be sited away from areas of scenic beauty.
  16. House prices will not fall. FALSE. Evidence is accumulating from the UK, US and Denmark to suggest a substantial fall in house values. Public opinion in the proximity of wind turbines will also work against sales. Two interested parties in a house near the Knockastanna site took no further action when it was revealed that a windfarm was proposed nearby.
  17. Wind turbines do not affect TV or microcommunications. FALSE. Residents of Rheidol Valley, when the 'farm' opened, will vouch to the contrary. Turbines have been turned down in Sweden and Kielder, UK for risk of microcommunication interference. Cellular telephones will also be affected.
  18. Avian populations are not affected by windfarms. FALSE. Great numbers of raptors have been killed by windfarms stupidly placed in migration paths. Power line kills are a known serious avian hazard. Habitat disruption is also a problem. The RSPB and Ireland BirdWatch both have fears for hen harriers and other species.
  19. Public opinion is massively in favour of wind technology. MISLEADING. Pointed quesions are often used to get required results. But - over 40 action groups in UK, National Conferences Against the Construction of Windfarms, 100 German Professors signing a document protesting against windpower - none of these support the view that wind energy fosters a favourable opinion. Visit sites and talk to locals to get a balanced opinion. The local debate in S Gippsland, Victoria, Australia suggests changing opinion.

* indicates information given by Glenn Schleede, US energy expert, in a personal communication.

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Historical

It may be as well for us to orientate ourselves in the field of wind energy production by means of a summary of the historical development of the wind turbine. At first, of course, the function of the windmill had nothing to do with electricity; it was a stone or wooden building with wooden sails constructed to pump water or grind corn. It seems likely that the first windmill was developed in Persia in around 700AD, although the Chinese may have had earlier models. The Persian mills were used primarily for water pumping, and their blades, made of reeds or wood, were attached to a central vertical pole, thereby rotating around a vertical axis. Legend has it that the Crusaders brought the design to Northern Europe, but for whatever reason, the English Domesday Book mentions mills and the most vulgar (and hilarious!) of the Canterbury Tales was told by the Miller. An early 13th century drawing shows the European prototypes to be horizontal axis machines; four large paddles moving vertically and transmitting torque to a horizontal pole or windshaft. The designs were improved as time went by, to include braking systems, for example, but the main principle remained the same - power from the wind directed along the windshaft to a brakewheel, thence to the 'wallower' gearing, the spur wheel, until finally the grindstone was activated.

Basic mill structure underwent several improvements. The first models were the 'post mills', the sails rotating around a fixed post. The 'smock' type involved a type of rotating 'cap' on top of the building, and finally the tower mill, first developed in Holland, involved a similar process except the building became a multi-storey tower. The family usually lived on the ground floor, and the industrial machinery and storerooms took up the rest of the space.

The windmills proceeded thus for centuries, and their function was multifaceted - pumping water, irrigation, drainage pumping, sawmills, processing fabrics. America's first waterpump windmill was erected in 1854, and a great advance came with steel manufacture in the 1870s. Then came the steam engine, whereupon the windmill's function suddenly froze.

It did not take long after the advent of electricity, however, before the idea of the dynamo and thence the production of electricity by rotating blades came into being.

This signal honour belonged to the American scientist and inventor Charles F. Brush, who packed his cellar with batteries and charged them using an ingenious contraption in his grounds - a gigantic wind turbine reaching 17m in height and boasting no less than 144 wooden blades. This cumbersome, but at the time brilliant, contraption did its job very well, having a capacity of about 12 kW, and was run by a solenoid driven technique, which was to remain in vogue until the advent of computer chips in the 1980s.

Of course, improvements needed to be made, and the first step came a decade later when Poul de Cour designed turbines with faster-moving (and fewer) blades. This was a prototype of the modern turbine, and marked a serious phase in the story of wind energy, as de Poul also founded the Society of Wind Electricities and the Journal of Wind Electricity. This was Denmark's windpower origins, and the country has remained in the forefront of wind development ever since. By the end of the First World War, there were about 120 turbines in the country, a number which was not to alter much until new developments were made.

The first ultra-large turbine, however, was erected in Balaclava, 1931 (100kW) - small fry compared to today's megawatt monsters. The German, Hutter, made many successful experiments advancing the technology until his research stopped in 1968. There was a brief moment of further work in 1957 when Juul built a sleek new turbine, three-bladed, stall-controlled, and with emergency aerodynamic braking system.

The industry limped by slowly until further 'improvements' were made in the early 1970s, when two experimental turbines were built in Denmark - the Nibe turbines, one stall-controlled, the other pitch-controlled. A vertical axis machine was also invented - the Darrieus wind turbine. Then, in the late seventies and early eighties, came the avalanche.

Possibly by good marketing, or by good salesmanship, or by political cajoling (most likely a mix), the sales of turbines suddenly took off. California decided, along with some European countries, that windpower could be the answer to the national power problem. And this was the major error and the point at which science became science fiction. It could not be seen that (a) the huge new machine size would have a major affect on the environment and on local residents, and (b) that their aim could never be realised. It is a completely different ballgame. Whereas small turbines set up in rural areas may have had a beneficial effect for rural homesteads (China developed 160,000 in rural sites, of little use when it is calm, but a great boon otherwise), there can be no way that such a gargantuan, inefficient machine could save a country's power crisis. This has already been borne out. Even now, when the governments realise that in order to produce a significant quantity of power they need enormous wind turbines in incredibly large numbers to contribute more than a trickle of electricity to the grid, there are pressures to go down the road to rural industrialisation and vandalism. Although such a scenario seems incredible, there are reasons for it.

Wind developers, private businesses, can make profits, fuelled by fixed prices per kWh (often upgraded for wind energy), tax credits, some tax exemptions, renewable energy credits, and subsidies which make the proposals increasingly attractive to financiers. And there is also 'greenwashing', the flying of the green flag to gain respect and often to use as a bargaining tool. But more of this in another chapter.

Denmark have always been world leaders in windpower implementation, and USA were an early pioneering country, commencing large-scale operations in 1981, Sweden a year later. There was a lull in the mid-eighties, when the bottom fell out of the Californian market due to the dropping of subsidisation. A small experiment in Mexico was short-lived, and the country never boasted more than a few machines; similarly, Norway and Australia began operations in 1986-7, but the growth of the industry has been minimal. China and India began to take the matter seriously. Then, in 1989, there came more serious contenders; Germany began a programme which was to accelerate throughout the 90s, and Japan also; Italy and the UK followed suit a year later. An area of Finland put up a few turbines, but the country has solidly (to date) declined the industry. Mid 90s saw Canada, Spain and Greece join the fray, Spain especially pushing the wind 'alternative'. Recently, the EC directives and the Kyoto Protocol have put more pressure on governments to consider the wind path, joined in persuasion by, of course, the wind developers themselves. Over the last few years there has been an unprecedented (and unmerited) wind rush. Two Spanish companies are persuading Argentina to join the fray. Morocco has 30MW online; Egypt (Red Sea area) 30, and Tunisia has opened its first 'farms'. Turkey has approved contracts for the first phase of a 350MW development. Chile have a wind-diesel combo in Isla Tac; South Africa have a single turbine, Sri Lanka has a 3MW pilot, and Pakistan are studying a feasibility study. The signs of wind turbine invasions are ominous.

Let us now take a look at the problems of modern wind 'farms'.

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An Ill Wind

  1. Return to Top
  2. Public Opinion
  3. Visual Impact
  4. Noise
  5. Television and Microwave Interference
  6. Wildlife
  7. Other Environmental Isuues
  8. Physical Danger
  9. Sites of Archaeological Interest
  10. Religious Objections
  11. Tourism
  12. Jobs
  13. House Values
  14. Hydrological Assessment
  15. Electricity Production
  16. Pollution and Global Warming
  17. Finance and Policy
  18. Conclusions

I Public opinion

{i} Public misconceptions

The many disadvantages of windpower, its near futility, and its problems will be enumerated later. However, most members of the general public know nothing of these. To them, windpower means generating electricity from a non-toxic source. It is thought to be environmentally friendly, which is not the case. It is an alternative to fossil fuel stations, a notion fostered by its epithet ‘alternative energy’, and will lead to their closure. Not true now, nor ever will be.

It is the ‘clean and serene’ popular concept which the wind developers play upon. In most cases, the objections made by residents of areas in which turbines have been sited are ignored or thought to be insignificant. The capabilities of these turbines are grossly exaggerated, as is their role in fighting global warming and fulfilling the Kyoto Protocol, which is negligible. The hazards are played down, so that the uninformed see nothing but bonuses in the erection of windfarms. Afterwards, they may repent at leisure.

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{ii} Windfarms

Ask a member of the public his or her opinion of the appearance of a windfarm, and chances are they will not know. They may have memories of small stone windmills in neighbouring fields, or a field containing a six foot windvane; the concept of a windfarm will probably be a field filled with man-sized windmills, rotating harmlessly in the breeze. Someone I met recently from Thurles thought of wind turbines as ‘white-painted wooden mills, like those in Holland.’ Even governments become lulled with false ideas of ecology and economic benefits - until enough windfarms are erected in a country to engender sufficient action groups to become heard. The windpower companies do nothing to dispel these false ideas, for obvious reasons: should the rural areas become acquainted with the plethora of problems associated with windfarming, their chances of public backing would be minimal. The history of windfarm projects worldwide is a sad one of broken promises and residential misery.

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{iii} ’Public Consultation’ Meetings

Most wind developers have a set routine to get the optimal results, both from local residents and from Planning Authorities. Companies exist to do this for them. It runs from how to handle the public, how to handle environmental problems (or play them down) right up to the acquisition of permission and the green light for their project. Considering how much money is at stake (usually subsidised by the government, ie the taxpayer, to a large degree), this is hardly surprising.

The public meetings are not often well attended, and it could be argued that wind developers may want as little attention as possible, anyway. In the neighbourhood of Rear Cross, Co Tipperary, a windfarm proposal has been pushed forward; the developer's consultation meeting had an attendance of twenty people, which does not seem to argue much effort to drum up interest (the company argue that many leaflets were distributed, yet I met no-one in the village who was aware of the meeting). First thing done was to ask those present to fill in a questionnaire concerning windpower. Are you in favour? Of course, this will be resoundingly positive - as the company representative knows right well. Later, if the full facts become known, the attitudes would alter. Such an act smacks of charlatanry. It is simply a method of gaining the statistics they want, and an underhand one.

It was noticeable that, even at the poorly attended meeting in Rear cross, there were some apprehensions, and concerns about impacts from

This proves that already there was some doubt as to the project, despite the fact that the wind developer had given reassurances.

An interesting scenario, depicting the reaction of locals to windfarms and the role of public input and consultation is described in the South Gippsland Shire Council debate on the proposition for a windpower station on the Prom Coast, Victoria, Australia. It dispels the myth that public opinion is firmly supportive of windpower, and also suggests that already, in a country on the brink of a windpower putsch, there are serious reservations among the rank and file despite company greenwashing.

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{iv} International opinion

The surveys performed in the UK have had a predictable outcome. There, the wind industry boasts up to 80% vote in favour of the technology (A Summary of Research Conducted into Attitudes to Wind, AM Simon 1996), all based, of course, on the over-simplistic questions asked to an ill-informed populus. For example, what would such a survey produce if the question were Do you agree with siting 350 foot industrial power turbines in Special Areas of Conservation? Statistics can be gathered to suit any need. But specific queries are more informative.

The question asked by the Electoral Reform Society to residents of Brora and Helmsdale (Sutherland, Scotland) was Do you want wind turbine towers to be built on the coastal hills of East Sutherland between Brora and the Ord of Caithness, now or in the future? The result: Nos 1098. Ayes 509.

When the people of Bothel and Threapland Parish were asked Are you in favour of the proposed windfarm on Wharrels Hill? The result was yes 20%, nos 64%, with 16% undecided or of no opinion.

Similar surveys have been carried out in Wales, with similar results.

Statistics may be quoted to impress, accentuate or promulgate a point of view. The more comprehensive and wide-reaching the survey, the more accurate the results. If a serious attempt is to be made to discover the attitude of the general public towards windpower stations, it would be necessary to ensure that the interviewee is in possession of all the facts; and this is rarely the case when windpower is discussed - the assumption is usually that turbines produce electricity using a renewable commodity at no cost to the people or the environment, under which precepts everyone would indeed be in favour of the technology. Again, to produce meaningful statistics from residents both prior to and following the construction of a wind station, sufficient data must be accrued to provide an accurate reflection of the public point of view. So:-

  1. sufficient sites must be examined
  2. enough residents must be interviewed to give a viable sample
  3. thought must be given to the proximity of the turbines to the resident; the impression may well become more forceful as the distance decreases.
An article has been written, (Public Attitudes Towards Wind Power, Damborg and Krohn) in which three sites were assessed; it is submitted that in all cases, residents were unaffected by the wind ‘farm’; the article has been appended to at least one wind developer’s EIS presumably as evidence of favourable global public opinion. Unfortunately, no specifics were given of the conditions under which the local population live, or if the opinion subscribed was held by the greater majority of the residents. Was sufficient thought given to (b) and (c) above? The article was written on behalf of the Danish Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association..!

The Friends of the Earth point to an article commissioned by the Scottish Government, in which questionnaires were sent out to residents 'in the vicinity of' windfarms. they conclude overwhelming support for windpower. However, it is interesting that the data was acquired in 3 groups, one within 5km of the sites, and the other two groups further away (up to 20km). The study would have been much more revealing (and accurate) had the three sections been, say, (a) less than 1km to a windfarm, (b)1-2km, (c) 2-5 km. It is a project which should be performed, and one which I hope to attempt myself.

My own experience is vastly different. I contacted sites in the UK, and received replies from Denbighshire, Scottish Borders, Northumberland, Wales, Marton, Askham and Ireleth, all telling me of a strong feeling in favour of the windpower stations, including those who later became objectors. Of those who have failed and are now living with the turbines, the result in terms of human misery is startling. Some of the letters of residents who at first gladly supported the projects now bear a tone of depression and disbelief. (see Letters).

Moreover, of the other sites in the UK, there are more than 40 action groups fighting against their respective wind ‘farms’; most of these grew up after the stations were set up. The following is not an exhaustive list:

ACTION GROUPS IN THE UK

ACRONYM % GROUPREGION
----LandscapeSutherland
McWAGMeikle Carewe Windfarm Action GroupAberdeenshire (Stonehaven)
NoAHNot on Angus HillsAngus)
----ArgyllArgyll
----Scottish BordersScottish Borders
KGBKeep Galloway BeautifulDumfries and Galloway
----Weardale Preservation GroupUpper Weardale
----NorthumberlandNorthumberland
FELLSFriends of Eden Lakeland & LunedaleCumbria East
---Group 25 Cumbria West
MAIWAGMarton Askham & Ireleth Windfarm Action GroupCumbria South
SHOWTSouth Holderness Opposes WindfarmsEast Yorkshire (Holderness)
----Federation of Windfarm Opposition GroupsSouth Pennines
RAWRossendale Against WindfarmsRossendale
----Shropshire CPREShropshire
----Cotswolds Protection GroupCotswolds
----Lessingham Preservation SocietyNorfolk North East
----Norfolk North CoastNorfolk North Coast
----South NorfolkSouth Norfolk
SOSSave Our SwansCambridgeshire Fens
SOSSave Our SkylineCambridgeshire Fens
----Wiltshire/Hampshire/S DownsWiltshire/Hampshire/S Downs
----CornwallCornwall
TAGTairgwaith Action GroupTairgwaith, S Wales
----Friends of North DevonDevon
----NE WalesNE Wales
DARTDenbighshire Against Rural WindfarmsDenbighshire
----Welsh MarchesWelsh Marches
CUMConservation of Upland MontgomeryshireMontgomeryshire, Powys
BAWTBrecon Against Wind TurbinesBrecon Powys
----Friends of Pembrokeshire National ParkPembrokeshire
JAWSJordanston Against the Windpower StationJordanston, Pembrokeshire
CARECampaign Against Rural ExploitationNorth Ceridigion
----Cefn Croes CampaignCefn Croes, Ceridigion
----Gelligaer and Merthyr CommonersGelligaer

The Addison Preservation Group in the United States was created as a protest against windfarms, and it is clear that once again their action committee grew as a reaction to the adverse circumstances the local population endured after the building of the turbines rather than as a protest for NIMBY or any aesthetic prejudice. A letter from Lotta Nillson, a Swedish lady, graphically illustrates the trauma that can be produced by insensitive wind developers. This lady’s house was 650m from a turbine.

A pattern is emerging, and it is instructive. First, there are countries who are about to, or who have recently, taken on board the windfarm option for sustainable energy production. Papers here reverberate with optimism, and the erection of windfarms accelerate at an alarming rate, because big business sees the chance of making big money, taking government grants and tax credits, and taking advantage of the national lack of facts and knowledge about wind turbines. Ireland is at this stage. Later down the spectrum are countries who have been through this, and have emerged with the blight of windfarms crowning their most beautiful landscapes - as well as loud voices demanding a stop to this madness, such as 'Neighbours of Windfarms' in Denmark, Country Guardian in the UK, and Bundersverband Landschaftschutz in Germany.

An international survey proves that, far from being universally accepted, there is at least a significant proportion of the populus who have become disillusioned with wind stations, and are making themselves heard about the wind energy clamour from developers and investors. In Germany, a hundred Professors signed the Darmstadt Manifesto which was presented to the public and the press in 1998, as a plea to check the industry and to save their national heritage. It states:

We demand that all direct and indirect subsidies should be withdrawn from wind energy technology. As we may not any longer pass over this disastrous development in silence, we wish to make a public appearance with the Darmstadt Manifesto on the Exploitation of Wind Energy in Germany and are first of all addressing politicians, upholders of civilisation, conservationists’ organisations, and media.

And, later:

The negative effects of the wind energy industry in our densely populated country are suppressed, scientific knowledge is ignored and there is a taboo on criticism. Only a few people are willing to break away from these political and social trends. After fighting for decades with great commitment for the preservation of our countryside the majority of the large organisations for the protection of nature now stand idly by watching its destruction.

Even the official government report stated in 1998

Market constraints, especially in the German coastal areas, include complaints that wind turbine installations are destroying the landscape and disturbing wildlife and birds. Neighbours of WECS complain of noise and shadow effects ... Although the land around a WECS can still be used as farmland, there are a lot of complaints. Over the past few years, it has become more difficult to get a construction permit for a WECS.

Spain also has suffered from the industrialisation of its rural environment by wind developers and, in desperation, they recently held their first National Conference in Defence of the Landscape against the Construction of Windfarms, at the Casa Grande in Quintana de Valdivielso, Burgos. They conclude that:

...windfarms are essentially industrial installations, and should be treated as such in all respects, and that the construction of windfarms modifies the landscape considerably, resulting in a major transformation of its physical features, changes in its ecosystems and visual pollution, in addition to other types of impact.

Again, Wales, who have borne the brunt of wind projects in the UK, have produced many action groups, and a voice of admonishment from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales:

It has been CPRW’s view since 1995 (supported by other NGOs in England and Scotland) that the majority of existing sites have unacceptable visual (and in some cases other) impacts. Further substantial land-based turbine development geared to meeting an appropriate larger share of the 2010 target would jeopardise the integrity of extensive areas of high quality landscapes and their enjoyment by the public...

Gipe, a wind energy supporter and author of ‘Wind Power For Home And Business’ and ‘Wind Energy Comes Of Age’, wrote:

I am a longtime advocate of wind energy in California and my record in support of the industry is well known. I have chronicled the growth of California's wind industry for more than twelve years. It therefore pains me greatly to urge the Commission to . . . recommend to the legislature that no funds from the [California Competition Transition Charge] be distributed to existing or future wind projects in the state. Funds that were destined for this purpose should instead be deposited in a wind energy cleanup fund to be administered by the Commission. Money from this fund could then be used to control erosion from plants in California, to remove abandoned and nonoperating wind turbines littering our scenic hillsides, and to mitigate other environmental impacts from the state's wind industry.

From a national Swedish report compiled earlier this year: Public attitudes towards windpower, especially its impact on the landscape, is a most important factor that influences practically every project.

Finland simply do not want to know. One reason given is the visual impact (qv) on the countryside, and despite heavy pressure they have not yet broken. There is a renewable energy policy, but concentrates on other means, and wind plays little part. In fact, the action plan outlined for windpower last year has only been endorsed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, as it has proven difficult to defend the budget required. No turbines were erected last year. Only in Aland have turbines gone ahead to any extent, but then again Aland is an autonomous area, self-governing with its own budget and energy policies. On the down side, there are groups trying to effect changes, notably Motiva, the Energy Centre for Energy Efficiency, and the Finnish Wind Energy Association, both strongly promoting windpower.

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{v} The ‘NIMBY’ syndrome

NIMBY is an acronym for ‘not in my back yard’, and some developers have spent time in putting this forward as an argument for their proposal. The reasoning is thus: a questionnaire filled in at a public meeting showed the residents to be in favour of windpower (of course, they knew nothing of the pro and con arguments). Now, if they protest or petition against the project, it will simply be a case of NIMBY. Wind developers may make a parallel with, for example, motorways. People vote in favour of them, but they do not want them in their vicinity. This has, then, an implied criticism of windfarms; it is assumed by the wind developer that they will not be wanted in anyone’s backyard. So much for their arguments for the aesthetically pleasing appearance of the turbines, and all the other arguments for their presence here. Of course, the public know about motorways, they know the disruption heir construction will cause, they know it will be an eyesore. But they do not know about windfarms. Quoting NIMBY reflects, first, that windfarms are eyesores as well, and second, that the residents will at some time become aware of that.

The NIMBY argument has another facet; it has the effect of instilling a sense of selfishness into local residents, in that they are less likely to ask pertinent questions about the work involved in case it sounds like complaining. It may silence those who have very good reason to want to know exactly what is to happen in their back yard. A resident of Addison, while objecting to the erection of a windfarm, stated this about NIMBY:

Big business and government have created the NIMBY stick to hit ordinary people over the head with so that they will believe that they are doing something wrong. If you feel shy about standing up for yourself and your family, you are less likely to get in their way. The last time I checked, this wasn’t communist China and individuals are not expected to sacrifice all for the motherland. Dig into the issues that most NIMBYS are fighting and you will find that things are usually not as clean as they appear on the outside. Follow the money involved in any big project and you will find the driving forces are more often about putting more dollars into the hands of the already wealthy then about the "greater good" of the community. We don’t just have the right to defend our homes against profiteers and others; I feel that I have a responsibility to do so. My commitment to my home, my family and to my neighbors who are in the same boat is what makes me a good citizen. I will not be made to feel bad about that.

Robert L Bradley Jr, an American scholar and author on energy production, writes:

Wind (like solar) "mars" the landscape all the time, not "at least for a time." (Not Cheap, Not Green)

Environmentalists have raised concerns over erosion from service roads cut into slopes (an important problem for California, where mud slides are a hazard), “fugitive dust" from unpaved roads, flashing lights and the red-and-white paint required by the FAA on tall towers, rushed construction for tax considerations, fencing requirements, oil leakage, and abandoned turbines. The "not in my back yard" problem of wind turbines may seem a trivial nuisance for urbanites, but for rural inhabitants, who "choose to live in such locations . . . primarily because the land is unsuitable for other urban uses," there is an environmental cost.

Paul Gipe, another US scholar, writes:

Centrally directed R&D's most spectacular failure was in the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to build the giants of the wind turbine world: the multimegawatt machines.

In the US, wind developers were their own worst enemy. Michael Brower and Michael Tennis wrote:

The rush to build wind turbines brought many poorly designed machines to market which failed miserably in the field. The reputation of the wind industry was further damaged by naive and sometimes dishonest operators who oversold their products. These problems left a legacy of public scorn and skepticism about wind power that has only recently begun to fade.

Again, according to an official report from Hawaii: Many of Hawaii's existing windpower stations are not considered successful, due in part to insufficient understanding of the technical and business issues associated with such projects. This deficiency has resulted in poor turbine siting, overly optimistic energy projections, revenue shortfalls and inappropriate windfarm designs. Back to Public Opinion

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{vi} Public opinion in Ireland

To assess the visual and noise pollution of windfarms, members of our action group, CRAG, visited the Tralee site, where they could plainly hear the machines. A resident explained that half of the community was in favour of the turbines, but now the vast majority wish they had all opposed it. Clare have successfully fought off a number of attempts to industrialise its natural beauty, but developers are back again. BirdWatch Ireland have expressed their concern over possible denigration of habitat, particularly hen harriers. Several conservation groups in Ireland have expressed concern, and recently a document was published and co-signed on behalf of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, An Taisce, Birdwatch Ireland, Earthwatch, Irish Wildlife Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Ireland:

We are concerned that in the absence of a clear strategy governing windfarm developments and their environmental impacts, their full benefits may not be realised to the host communities or to the Irish economy. We have recently discussed concerns felt over the development of wind farms, particularly in so far as they affect upland wildlife, habitats and sensitive visual amenities.

In addition, an extract from the MCI - Mountaineering Council of Ireland - lists windfarms as:

...an intrusive development which has a high visual environmental impact, and which tends to lessen in a significant way the ‘wilderness’ quality of the mountains.

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{vii} Public opinion at Knockastanna - the second public meeting

The following is a true example of what happened during the first few weeks of an application being made to Limerick County Council for permission to build a windpower station on the hill Knockastanna. The opinion of residents was hardly positive, especially after full facts had become known. On 18 July 2001, a second public meeting took place in the Community Hall of Rear Cross village; a talk was given on the negative aspects of windfarms, and in particular its impact on Knockastanna and surrounds.

The developer attended the meeting, along with a number of his supporters. He was given every opportunity to express his views at the end of the talk, which he did. After that, everyone had the opportunity to express their views.

Those living close to the project were passionate about their objections, and wished to be left alone. One speaker complained that having asked for information from the company, none was forthcoming. The developer’s supporters often gave their views that the project would be financially profitable. Those from the village who spoke suggested that they did not want change, and those who had moved to the area said that this decision was made to get away from industry and noise. After some discussion, a show of hands was taken. Even with the presence of the company and supporters (most of whom were from outside the village), the vote was 74% against windfarms. It is also to be noted that the question put was Who is for or against windfarms?; it was later discovered that some voted for, who would have voted against if the question had been Who is for or against a windfarm on Knockastanna? Furthermore, many signed the petition to stop this project. The petition had been taken around the hill by action group members, and of all the people living there, who would be directly affected by the windfarm, only 2 households did no sign; 55 others did.

This petition was an accurate record of local feeling against the project; these names are local to Knockastanna and the surrounding district.

The final result, then; around Knockastanna, 94% oppose this project. Of the outlying areas (including the votes of the wind developer and his supporters), 74% were against the windfarm. According to the literature of the ISVR Consultancy Services:

If, despite being well informed about the effects of the development and related issues, the majority of the local community are still strongly opposed to the development, it should not go ahead (‘Wind Energy Project Development’).

Members of the action group also attended a meeting of a local Community Council, where many concerns were expressed, most of which were news to those present. They left after a call from the floor for support for the group.

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{viii} Buying public opinion

It seems a sine qua non of high scale development is the offer of a cash stimulus to be used in any appropriate local way; this has been viewed in some quarters as a sweetener or a bribe. It is to be assumed that such a bribe has been made in an attempt to push something through which would be expected to receive opposition. Furthermore, a new way of operating seems to be to offer the possibility of a share scheme in a separate turbine; this methodology would seem to suggest a need to heavily convince locals to accept a package which they may live to regret.

The windpower developer at Knockastanna suggested that such plans would be considered during the phase between receipt of planning permission and the construction period. After the meeting, however, things changed. In an attempt to drum up local support, a leaflet was distributed around the area in an attempt to (a) discredit the facts given by the objectors, and (b) to request names of anyone interested in a share scheme. A radical alteration from this first statement, which suggested that consideration would only be given if planning permission were granted - a good stimulus for those interested to achieve just that. At that point, names were required, as such a list would generate support then.

This is another very disturbing feature of windfarm projects; that the developer stirs up enmity between members of a community. The usual cause is that a local farmer who, quite understandably, wishes to profit from unusable land by leasing it; and the objectors, who discountenance his actions. This happens regularly. In Ireland, it is reflected in the situation in Clare, where an objecting group chairman described relations between himself and local landowners as not as satisfactory as they once were.

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{ix} Planning authorities in Ireland and the UK

Overwhelming public support for windfarms is not borne out by the facts. In the UK, Planning Authorities turned down 80% of applications for windfarm siting. The Irish have rejected 70%. The major influence seems to be that of visual impact. But, apart from appeals by the wind developers themselves, who ever heard of complaints being lodged by the public because a windfarm proposal was turned down?

Permission for a £15 million wind farm near the Vee Gap scenic drive in the Knockmeal down Mountains has been refused by An Bord Pleanála; the development is the third such proposal approved by the council and rejected by An Bord Pleanála in the past 10 months. The planning board said that notwithstanding the reduced height of the structures, the proposed development "would seriously injure the scenic and natural amenities and distinctive character of this remote area". It would also "detract from the amenities of an important walking route and would set an undesirable precedent for further similar development at elevated locations in the Knock mealdown mountain range."

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II Visual Impact

{i} Beauties or beasts?

The appreciation of wind turbines from an aesthetic point of view depends on individual taste, and one’s proximity - a turbine may look harmless enough from several miles away, yet forbidding and oppressive from close quarters. Probably the most truthful evaluation depends on which side of the political fence one is on - pro windpower sees them as works of fine art, anti windpower as monstrosities. But those with no particular preference are unlikely to see a giant mechanical turbine as a feature of any great beauty. David Bellamy, the famous TV presenter and conservationist, calls them ‘ a blot on the landscape.’ In a recent Norwegian article, 'Nordic Windpower Threatened By Ugly Mills', public objections that 'modern windmills are eyesores' are considered.

The Centre for Alternative Technology, a large eco-centre and pro-windpower, lists the characteristics of an individual’s objection to visual impact as follows:

It goes on:

As with all aesthetic matters, these are subjective issues. The aesthetic appeal of the countryside is a relatively recent, ever-changing and culturally determined phenomenon. However, a great many people currently share some combination of the beliefs and desires expressed above, and their views are no less valid for being subjective.

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{iii} Evidence from other countries

In the UK, the constant erections of wind turbines have threatened the most beautiful areas of the country. Wales has been especially savaged by the onslaught, and even the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Wind Energy’s statement that these farms should ‘be sited neither within Designated Areas nor where they would be clearly visible from such areas’ has been largely ignored by developers. Even 5 years ago, the English Countryside Commission warned that the scenic countryside was in danger of becoming ‘a windfarm wilderness’.

The Darmstadt Manifesto: Our country is on the point of losing a precious asset....the industrial transformation of cultural landscapes ... is being allowed’.

At the recent First National Conference in Defence of the Landscape against the Construction of Windfarms, at Burgos, The construction of windfarms modifies the landscape considerably, resulting in a major transformation of its physical features, changes in ecosystems and visual pollution, in addition to other types of impact. And so on.

The political position of Finland with regard to windpower is interesting. Many points were made by a government report in 1998:

The visual impact on the landscape is the most difficult planning problem related to wind energy and, after economics, this is the most significant obstacle to development. The reason is simply that the regions with the most wind are also very picturesque and environmentally valuable. In particular, the Finnish archipelago is significant in shaping our national identity. Further, many Finns have summer cottages in the countryside, especially in the archipelago and other coastal regions. At their summer cottages, people want to have a close relation to untouched nature. They do not want modern technology, like wind turbines, nearby. (International Energy Agency 59, Ch 11, 1998).

These feelings were reiterated in the 2000 report.

Mountaineers of the Basque country in Spain have reached the end of the tether and have set up a web site (Elgea Stop!) detailing their campaign to protect their wild and previously unspoilt landscape.

The annoyance felt by Italy at failures to automatically gain planning permission is barely hidden in the IEA R&D Wind Annual Report for the year 2000:

Bureaucracy, visual impact and weakness of the electric grid are the commonest causes of difficulties for wind developers.

The European Landscape Convention clearly states that European landscapes are a common resource and States have a duty to co-operate in their planning, management and protection, and that any action that contravenes this Convention should be reported to the Council of Europe.

The problem in parts of the USA can be compared to Altamont, California, about which Carlotta Collette wrote:

To some who drive through the Alameda County, California, site, Altamont is a visual blight. Acre after acre of 100-foot-tall turbines in long curved rows line the softly rolling hills. . . . Altamont is where neighbors complain - loudly and with media coverage - that the noise from the turbines is unbearable.

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{iv} Impact of other work

Massive wind turbines will not be the only eyesore to scar the upland areas and their surrounds. Large pylons, or wooden poles, will have to be built and will march across the countryside, taking power cables with them; it is unlikely (due to high costs) that the developer will agree to bury them. Substations will also be built on the windfarms, and possibly further building work in the shape of 'interpretative centres’. New access roads will, in all probability, need to be built, and the present country roads leading up to the mountains will hardly accommodate the heavy traffic which the residents will suddenly have to endure. In fact, these roads were not built to take such loads, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that they will simply not be able to take the strain. The roads leading to small settlements are too narrow to accommodate such large scale traffic, especially the articulated lorries travelling to and fro. If these roads cannot be utilised, what is the alternative? Do developers wish to lay more roads, marring the countryside even further,or alter (‘improve’ is the usual euphemism) certain locations of whichever route they will choose?

All of which will add to destroy the character of these traditional areas.

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{v} Strobe effect

When the sun is behind the rotating blades a strobe effect is generated when the sunlight is chopped by the fast-moving blades. Medical opinion suggests that this can cause ‘dizziness, headaches, disorientation and trigger seizures and migraines.’ It can also frighten livestock, such as cattle, and other wildlife.

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{vi} Shadow flicker

Although less dramatic, long shadows from the rotors can spread over structures and dwellings, and can be disturbing to residents, as well as animals and livestock.

The Irish guidelines also state that ‘the height and movement of wind turbines may distract drivers of motor vehicles’ and that turbines should be set back from the road by up to 300m, depending on circumstances.

In Germany's national report to the IEA, 2000, its was said that concern had been expressed regarding shadow flicker on wildlife, including birds.

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{vii} Reflected light

Light reflected from the blades (blade glint) can have an alarming effect on residents or visitors. Although developers shrug this off with talk of non-reflective paint, the reflection factor cannot be completely eradicated, and is yet another visual problem with the turbines. Besides, the coating on blades has been known to be worn off within a year.

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{viii} What windpower supporters have said

Jonathan Porritt: The modern wind turbine is a mighty intrusive beast. It’s not into nestling, blending in or any of those cliches so beloved of rural romantics.

The editor of Windpower Monthly (1998): Too often the public has felt duped into envisioning fairy tale wind ‘parks’ in the countryside. The reality has been an abrupt awakening. Wind power stations are no parks.

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{ix} Night lights

Many complaints have been lodged against the red lights from the turbines at night, which are distracting and ruin the night sky. The may also flash very rapidly.

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III Noise

{i} Noise as a pollutant

Noise pollution is unwanted sound whose volume constitutes a nuisance. The word derives from the Latin nausea, meaning seasickness. Modern life and its demands is largely responsible for the production of machinery which has become desirable (in many cases, mandatory) and as such must be accepted by civilisation. This advance in technology has a double blade; first, it makes life more comfortable and in this age of selfishness become doubly welcome; but second, the population must endure the adverse side effects which it inevitably brings, either with regard to increased power consumption or the emission of gaseous or noise pollution. Mechanisation and electrification of everything from ovens to toothbrushes and carving knives, companies vying with companies to produce the most consumer-friendly gadgets. And the so-called third world, when westernised, mimic the mannerisms and habits of the so-called civilised world; and who can blame them? Cigarette smoking, newest electrical appliances, all advertised from poster boards or in the latest movies from the west.

As far as noise goes, the reasons for the recent increase may be summarised:

Not only is it a nuisance, it can be detrimental to human health and well-being. There have even been comparisons with cigarette smoking; we can produce and suffer ourselves, or we can experience it second hand from uncaring neighbours.

For the person who takes it upon himself to produce and transmit noises of whatever amplitude, they must remember that they have no wholesale right to the environment into which they pollute. And it they do so to unacceptable levels, they must pay the appropriate penalty. Laws have evolved to allow each person to enjoy his/her privacy and wellbeing, and to protect them against infringement. It is a job for the national legislature to govern limits and to quantify absolute levels. If a neighbour were to run his motorcycle 500m from a dwelling in the dead of night in a rural setting, not only in the dead of night but all night too, there would be few people that would deny that that person is acting out of selfishness, that such an act is iundefensible, that appropriate action should be taken to prevent this from occurring. Yet wind turbines make just such a noise at source. And it is time that action was taken to, first, prevent such a liberty from being taken, and second, to ensure by law that the distance to a dwelling at which such a noise may be safely emitted should be such as to ensure no nuisance value. Each person has an obligation to ensure that they do no interfere with the rights of others.

This is probably of more pertinence in the countryside, where modern noise pollutants are limited, and the population has become accustomed to a lower level of background noise, especially in the dead of night. It is just at such a time that a neighbouring windfarm will have its maximum effect. A recent measurement at one of the houses nearest to the turbines at Knockastanna revealed a noise level of 20dB; the extra noise quoted by the developer, even if it is accurate, would plainly constitute a nuisance above this level.

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{ii} What creates noise from the turbines?

There are two sources of turbine noise, one is mechanical and is inherent in the gearing system, the other created by the aerodynamics of the rotating blade, which emits a noise when passing the hub, sometimes know as tower thump or simply aerodynamic noise. The first may be quietened to some extent, and has been to a large extent. The other, the ‘tower thump,’ creates most of the problems, and will vary depending on the speed of blade rotation.

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{iii} Progress in controlling noise

There is some debate as to whether any improvement has been made. Manufacturers claim that increasing the rotor-tower distance lessens the noise, but so far that has not been borne out judging by the complaints received from various windfarms of varying ages. Wind developers have a bad history of understating the noise nuisance factor, especially in the early days, when it was described by many as ‘inaudible’. Later, the noise would be described as ‘inaudible up to a distance of, say, 400m.’ The developers go out of their way to play this factor down, probably more so than any other factor, as if the full history of windfarm noise complaints was known, no community would accept a neighbouring wind station.

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{iv} Claims by wind developers

Developers inform us that ‘modern turbines are low-noise, noise from blades not mechanical (their turbines must run without gearing systems!), often 39dB as worst case (these claims have been heard before), and it is barely detectable over background noise.’ Familiar claims. But noise is the one factor which has destroyed people’s lives, their dwellings, and one might almost conclude from some of the letters, their sanity. Members of the Action Group CRAG visited the windfarm in Kerry recently and found that the noise could be plainly heard at 1000m - and that was during the day. It is not difficult to visualise the hardship that would ensue if one lived within that distance. Moreover, the studies performed by many developers are insufficient; proper noise level charts and maps for distances up to and over 1 km should be made available, and proof that work has been seriously performed on such an important matter. There may also be considerable error margins in the calculations; these should be made public, as it is very possible that even their black and white calculations may indicate that the noise levels may be above nationally accepted levels. It should also be borne in mind that any noise level should be compared with background levels, which would be extremely low in remote country areas.

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{v} Quotes about windfarm noise

Each wind turbine produces a noise level of 99.8dB(A) and some residents describe this noise as an old boot in a tumble drier, others as a Whumph! Whumph! Whumph! Either way it’s not particularly loud at 1.5km distance but closer than that it can be extremely irritating when exposed to it for any period of time. Some residents have even resorted to stuffing chimney stacks with paper as the sound reverberates down the stack ... The worst conditions are when the wind is blowing lightly and the background noise is minimal. Under these conditions residents up to 1 km have complained to the Environmental Health Department about the drone from these turbines. (see the Marton, Askham & Ireleth website on noise.

We were told that the noise produced by all 14 turbines would not exceed 50dB. Our experience is dramatically different from what we were led to believe...a log we have been keeping...illustrated how loud and disturbing the turbine noise is to us...wind turbine noise which interferes with neighbors’ sleep and their mental health. (Lincoln, Kewaunee, USA - See Links - Letters and Articles)

The wind turbine (Enercon E40) at Nympsfield in Gloucestershire, described by the developers as the quietest available, emits sound at source of 99dB(A) measured by the German Wind Energy Institute (DEWI) the external sound power level of a Zetor 8450 (4WD) tractor was 84dB(A). This has been measured in official tests under the auspices of the OECD. Now that the turbine is operational, the noise it emits, a mixture of whooshing, whistling and humming, can clearly be heard 1,000 yards away, exactly as one would have expected from the German tests. (Ian Blair, Darlington and Stockton Times, 30/1/98 - see Links - Letters and Articles).

When returning from Sligo on Monday I saw the Arigna windfarm...even from a great distance one could hear them whirring. Mrs O’Rourke, TD, Minister for Public Enterprise (Dail debate 1999).

For other examples, see Links - Letters and Articles.

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{vi} Propagation of noise

The propagation of noise in rural areas is not straightforward, and is further complicated by the falling hills and mountains. One thing seems to be certain - the guidelines for siting of windfarms in the proximity of dwellings is hopelessly out of date, especially in view of past complaints and present research.

It is not always possible to quote the basic sound power level of the WTG ... To an acceptable degree of accuracy. The prediction of noise levels at receiver locations at distances 300m to 1 km is still the subject of research into the patterns of sound propagation from WTGs especially in hilly areas.’ (ISVR Consultancy Services, University of Southampton).

It is surely not acceptable to site a turbine less than 500m from a house in Knockastanna when the effects of noise for up to a distance of 1km is still unknown.

The Irish guidelines state ‘the minimum desirable distance between wind turbines and occupied buildings, calculated on the basis of visual impact and expected noise levels, will always be greater than that necessary to meet safety requirements.’

Dr K Dierks, in ‘Renewable Energies in Namibia’, states that turbines should be placed 300m from buildings; ‘in the case of a windfarm this distance should be increased to 1 km’.

It is to be noted that the quoted 99dB at source quoted above is the equivalent of the noise of a motor cycle.

The International Energy Agency published: 'IEA: Measurement of Noise Immision of Wind Turbines at Noise Receptor Locations'(1997), and Sweden's conribution to the Annual Report for the IEA hinted at the complexity of the parameters governing sound emission in rural areas, stating 'the studies on the assessment of wind turbine noise have shown that not only the sound level and its temporal pattern but also several other factors are important for the subjective responses...'.

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{vii} Sleep disruption

Some concern is suggested by ISVR Consultancy services about ‘the relevancy of sleep disturbance criteria, based on absolute levels of noise rather than the excedence over the background levels.’ In other words, even if noise were to be contained within background levels, there may still be an effect on sleep. This is certainly borne out by actual residents’ letters, and sleep disruption seems to be a very real problem.

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{viii} Proximity of dwellings

From above considerations, it would seem sensible to restrict the siting of windfarms to be outside of a 1 km zone from the nearest dwelling. There is evidence that this distance should be increased. Genesis, a UK-German company specialising in the manufacture of turbines, state: Buildings, particularly housing, should not be nearer than 2 km to the windfarm.

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{ix} Hazard to birds

...noise may be the most significant impact in certain locations. Noise can also be harmful to wildlife, especially birds. (Irish guidelines). Not only would the siting of these windfarms destroy a nesting site for the rare birds, such as hen harriers, they therefore could also have a detrimental effect on the neighbouring birds.

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{xi} Effects of noise on health

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: Noise can cause regular and predictable stress in the human body. Continued stress can lead to hypertension which is the major cause of strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. Noise can affect the quality and quantity of sleep. In addition to waking us up, noise can lengthen the time needed to fall asleep or cause shifts from deeper to lighter sleep stages. A good night’s sleep is essential to our general health and well being. And, in conclusion: Home should be a place for rest and quiet after the labor and cares of each day. Excessive noise in the community deprives most people of access to such a retreat. This is an unfortunate and unnecessary by-product of our industrialised society.

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{xii} Illegal noise levels

The Westmorland Gazette, in 1999, claimed about a local windfarm: Environmental Health Officers agree turbines contravene noise nuisance laws. But once the windfarms go up, it will be difficult to right any problems, especially for the neighbours. It will be a fait accompli.

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{xiii} Facing the noise problem honestly

It is almost impossible to understand how today wind developers can insist that noise levels are not a problem. It is amoral in that the results are human suffering, and that is a truth that has been proven again and again. At Kerry, residents who did not object to the windfarm are now wishing they had. And so it will be with every installation that is too close to human habitation. We have read nothing of compensation if the acoustic experts have got it wrong; and windfarm developers seem to be prone to that mistake.

The honest approach is for the windpower protagonists to admit this obvious problem, and to take active measures from preventing this happening; to take the advice of turbine manufacturers and research scientists. But this does not seem to happen. Over a decade of experience has passed, and we are still hearing that the turbines are ‘inaudible’ or ‘just a whisper’. And it that was true - if the noise level were just that (not to take into account evidence which proves this to be false) - is it not also true that even a whispering noise would be intrusive in the dead of night? Even accepting wind developers’ figures, the siting of a turbine so close to human dwellings may well be unendurable.

The Irish guidelines tell us that 40dB(A) is considered too great. The residents around Knockastanna were told that the level at the nearest house would be over 39dB(A). This margin, a fraction of a decibel, is too close for comfort, especially when one considers the error margin, and the many, many mistakes in noise forecasting made by turbine manufacturers; one company, Ecogen, had the conscience to hold up their hands and admit : ‘We got it wrong.’

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IV Television and Microwave Interference

{i} Disruption of television viewing

The presence of the wind turbines cause a reception shadow of up to 10 km, and any dwelling place within the shadow will suffer scattering of signal, colour loss and sound buzzing. This could have a cascade effect if there are multiple relay stations in the region. This has happened at many windfarms, including Rheidol Valley, Wales, and Millhouse Green, Barnsley. Luckily, a clause was written into the contract of the latter development and finally, after two years, a new relay station was built.

Evidence seems to suggest also that ‘the cheapest, rather than the most effective, options are tried first’ (Country Guardian - The Case Against Windfarms’).

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{ii} Ghosting

Further disruption may be caused by reflections from the rotor blades, producing ghosting and flicker.

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{iii} Microwave communication links

The Swedish armed forces blocked 15 windfarms in Norrtalje and have argued against similar projects on the coast between Stockholm and Uppland, on the grounds of microwave communication disruption. 'The military sees risks for disturbances of military microwave links, radar, intelligence activities and aircraft flying at low altitudes' (IEA - National Activities, Annual Wind Report, Sweden).

A plan for a large windfarm in Kielder, Northumbria, was scrapped recently because of the danger to military communications systems.

Planning Guidance (Wales) Technical Note 19 states that the 'construction of ... structures such as windfarms can interfere with broadcast and other telecommunications services'.

Cellular telephones can also be affected by the proximity of turbines.

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V Wildlife

{i} Wildlife considerations

The threat to wildlife and endangered species brought a hugely sympathetic response in the latter half of the last century, when conservation groups, action groups and governmental legislation built a protective wall around the wildlife of the planet. All the more surprising that many of the world’s windfarms have been allowed to sit on some of the greatest wildlife habitats, especially those of hill and mountain species. One reason is the so-called environmental correctness of the project, and the lack of knowledge on the part of national assemblies. However, the nature of rural Ireland must be protected, and as home to many species of flora and fauna, should be freed from the threat of industrialisation.

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{ii} Birds and turbines

Wind turbine blades travel at 180mph and they weigh up to 1.5 tonnes, a lethal weapon against any airborne creature. It is generally agreed that migration paths and nesting grounds of rare species of bird should be protected against the threat of windfarms.

Bill Evans, a Cornell University ornithologist, has estimated that the bird kill due to windfarms may exceed 5,000,000 per year. Up to 10,000 have been killed by one turbine in one night. Less usual, birds simply fly into the towers. Birds of prey can be more prone to injury, as small rodents have been shown to take shelter at the base of the towers, and multiply; raptors such as hawks are killed by flying towards their prey and being struck by the rotors.

Although there is strong evidence to connect wind turbines with bird mortality, wind developers still insist that the danger is minimal,or even non-existent, and that such danger as exists would be comparable to, say, traffic kills. But the rare upland species do not nest in areas of highways, nor do they hunt there. To compare hen harrier deaths with traffic collisions is like comparing fish mortality with aircraft flight paths - the two are unconnected. And then, one must take account of the fact that there is even more risk posed by the presence of power lines.

Some authors have taken the quantification of birdkill seriously, and have mooted methods of accurately assessing this. The most promising, but fraught with difficulties, is the radar method. Very recently a well-meaning paper has developed a plan for such monitoring; by counting dead bodies at a set time each morning. This is being taken on board as a gold standard, but the birdkill will be greatly underestimated for two reasons:

That a risk exists is even confirmed by the UK Government, who admit to reservations about siting of turbines where birds may be at risk (Select Committee On Environmental Audit).

BirdLife International recently condemned the siting of turbines on Smola Island, Norway, because of the dangers to the very rare white-tailed eagle.

Similarly, a project on Denbigh moors has just been scrapped because of nesting rare birds; the RSPB spokesman said:'It is a commendable step by the developer to pull out of the scheme given the likely adverse impact on the environment and on birds in particular'.

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{iii} Birds and power lines

Kills by power lines are more serious than even the spinning turbine blades, and could have a detrimental effect on the birds of the region; the results on the hen harriers could well be disastrous. About this concern there can be no debate; even windpower spokesmen freely admit the fact, often claiming openly that power line dangers are a real menace to birdlife, apparently forgetting that these run (often many kilometres) to the grid connection. 120 Harris hawks alone were killed in South Arizona during a 3-year period; and 26 fires were caused around the South River National Conservation Area since its inception.

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{iv} Birds and European directives

There are two - the Habitats Directive, and the Birds Directive - which seek to constrain developments from areas likely to have a significant effect on designated habitat and breeding sites. ‘A well designed project should not result in loss of valuable habitat or adverse impact on protected species’ - European Practice Guidelines.

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{v} The hen harrier and other rare species

Hen harriers, in particular, are one of a number of vulnerable protected species. They do breed in the Welsh mountain, where only 20-30 pairs exist. They have been present on Irish mountains - on Knockastanna for every breeding season for at least the last three years, for example - and must be protected; their habitats may be permanently ruined if many more windfarm proposals go ahead. Many of these areas should be SACs; Ireland has been very backward in assigning these.

The view of BirdWatch Ireland, is as follows: ‘hen harrier is probably the most at risk from wind turbines, if they are nesting within 300m of them. Other risks are unknown, such as possible displacement (say in terms of hunting territory) by presence of turbines, which effectively results in habitat loss.’

The RSPB has voiced several concerns about the effects on birds:

They also have concerns about habitat damage:

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{vi} Animals

There is usually a large community of animals in the mountain regions, which constitute a vital characteristic in the balance of the environmental ecosystem. Small rodents are also prey for raptors such as the rare hen harrier.

Animals, domedstic and wild, may be frightened by the noise and appearance of these turbines. The British Horse Society has several concerns, particularly fright caused by:

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{vii} Bats

American sources have recently shown that there is an obvious bat kill problem, and the Sierra Club (‘The Cuisinarts of the Air’) suggest that this may be worse even than the bird kill situation. Bats live in the Knockastanna area, and are useful in their consumption of harmful insects. Organisations have sprung up over the years in an attempt to protect the failing numbers of bats, and they also need to be protected against the windfarm blades.

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{viii} Flora

Once the site is dug up and concrete bases inserted for the turbines, once the ground has been dug for tarmac/gravel roads and pylons/poles are sited, there will be an end to the habitat the hills afford, and much plant life will be completely destroyed. These hills are, more often than not, havens for flora, and careful surveys should be made for rare species prior to any planning decision.

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{ix} Rivers, streams and tributaries

There are attempts afoot to encourage salmon numbers in many local Irish rivers, and these and their tributaries should be candidates for protection as SACs. Construction work may cause sedimentation in the river due to the porous nature of the peat; the watercourses, then, may be put at risk.

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{x} Habitat protection

Ireland has not done enough work to protect special areas of conservation, with the result that sensitive areas may be irreparably damaged by windfarm locations. From Windfarms and Upland Bogs, a paper cosigned by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, Earthwatch, Irish Wildlife Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Ireland:

The current criteria for eligibility under the AER schemes require only that the applicants secure planning permission for the proposed development. No assessment of the site from an ecological or biodiversity perspective is undertaken by the Department and only commercial and technical criteria are used to evaluate applications. This represents a major weakness in the current AER schemes. It has the effect of placing tremendous pressure on sensitive upland areas, which, due to gaps and inconsistencies in the designation of National Heritage Areas and Special Areas of Conservation may not have been surveyed or designated under the draft list of SACs forwarded to the European Commission. It is critical that the siting of wind farms is placed in a national context of inadequate upland habitats protection and enforcement, and that the Department revises the current scheme to specifically rule out the location of wind farms in ecologically sensitive areas, in or adjacent to designated habitats.

And, later:

There should be a presumption against the siting of wind farms in ecologically sensitive areas. Many of these sites are designated as special Protection Areas for birds, or are proposed as National Heritage Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. However, as there has been no recent and comprehensive survey of upland breeding birds, there are sites of potential conservation importance which have not been identified and are therefore to be protected by the existing suite of statutory designations.

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{xi} Wildlife - conclusion

As is obvious by the considerations above, upland Ireland teems with a variety of wildlife, animals, birds and flora. A proper survey needs to be made, for each site at risk of turbines, to fully evaluate the extent of wildlife - and a survey done at the proper time of year. This rural land is part of the heritage of this country, and deserves protection from industrialists who cause serious injury to the environment while sanctimoniously expressing their concern for the future of the earth, pollution and global warming - all, as we shall see, without just cause. Windfarms are a means to a financial end.

As David Bellamy says, ‘They are not environmentally friendly.’

Dr John Hedger, the Institute of Biological Science, University of Wales: ‘Wind energy is not as clean as its proponents would have us believe. It is an industrial development and as such causes degradation of the environments where turbines are sited. The result is a loss of habitat for wildlife.’

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VI Other environmental issues

{i} Damage to moorland and natural watercourses

The phenomenon of the windfarm is fairly new, and so research into wider consequences has just scratched the surface of what could be happening as vast turbines sit rotating on huge concrete blocks. Early results are far from reassuring. The Flaight Hill Opposition Group at Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, called in a hydrologist and some engineers to examine the neighbouring Ovenden Moor windfarm. They found that the turbines had cracked the moorland bedrock and diverted natural watercourses.

On a lesser note, tracks to and from the turbines had resulted in foetid swamps of ‘peat soup’, which could not run away but simply were stagnating. This, in turn, had another adverse effect on local wildlife.

In Finland, attempts were made to adapt certain small offshore rocks and islands which, it was felt, would make natural turbines bases. It has been impossible to get planning permission for such projects due to ‘environmental concern’.

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{ii} Peat

The reserves of peat bog remain one of this country’s great assets, and are guarded by the IPCC. Unfortunately, acres of peat bog will be destroyed by the construction of windfarms, if the wind energy industry thrives, and a percentage of the country’s natural resources will be lost.

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{iii} Forestry

The Irish guidelines for planning state: Mature forests can grow up to a height of 30m. Forestry in the vicinity may therefore be in conflict by reason of the shelter it provides.

Many of Ireland’s mountain regions are planted with heavy forestry.

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{iv} Ancillary work

The extra roads which will need to be built will destroy further wildlife habitats, and mar the countryside still further. Of the transport routes suggested by developers, small villages are certain to be affected, and the impact of traffic congestion in these small rural settlements is yet another knock-on effect of the industrialisation of the hillsides. The villages themselves, for an appreciable time, will have to endure this imposition. And what of the small roads which were not built for such loading? Will the company repair any damage, or compensate the residents for this inconvenience? Even if they were to do so, no amount of financial compensation could recover the lost character of the area and its surroundings. In the place of rolling country, huge industrial turbines and a marching line of miles of pylons. I have seen photographs of hedgerows and country lanes destroyed by the construction stage of windfarm development, and no compensation or even repair was forthcoming.

Not only will there be an increase in heavy traffic, which will dismay those residents who are used to a quiet rural life and have done for many many years, but there will be very heavy loads and long transporters. These will bear the heavy turbines, the longest loads being for the enormous rotor blades, and the weight may be gauged by the nacelle, that part which sits on the hub - it alone weighs approx 57 tonnes. The transporters will normally be over 105 feet long, requiring road widths of 5m, over 15 feet, and few of the rural roads will meet this criterion. Will they need to be widened? As well as this, they need a turning circle of 120 feet in radius; this means that several parts of the road will need to be dramatically altered, or as the developers usually put it, ‘improved’.

Concrete will need to be carried to the site in the construction phase; peat will often need to be excavated both for the turbine bases, and for the new road. These bases will probably measure about 2m by 16-18m, which means they need to be filled with over 500 cubic metres of material per turbine.

New buildings will be erected, to the further detriment of the site; a substation and a control building, in all likelihood. Pylons and/or wooden poles will be erected to carry the lines across the countryside to the nearest electricity station, often many miles away if the developer refuses to bury the cables. There is a further worry that playing children, unused to such traffic volume, may be at risk.

Wind developers constantly talk of cleaner air, which is a complete nonsense when one considers the pollutant gases emitted at this stage of construction.

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VII Physical Danger

{i} Falling turbines

Although wind developers state that the risk of injury is very slight, the fact remains that it exists, and is more common than might at first appear. Whole turbines have been known to fall down. And it is not difficult to imagine the catastrophe which would have occurred had there been anyone walking by at the time.

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{ii} Broken blades

Rotor blades weigh up to 1.5 tonnes and can travel at over 180 mph. They can cause massive problems if these blades were to break, and wind developers state that this is only a very remote chance. Professor Wolfrum, Darmstadt University, on blade failures:

It appears that this technology is by no means safe ... Particularly with the large new models, with rated capacities of 500kW and more, problems arise since the rotor blades are heavier and have to be manufactured manually.

He detailed four severe cases in Germany of blade breakage.

At Palm Springs, USA, developers were made to site turbines at least half a mile from the highway for safety reasons.

Three windfarms were closed in the UK for safety reasons in April 2000.

And there is danger to monuments as well - ancient tombs or similar artifacts adjacent to windfarm sites should also be protected, not only from the sight of the turbines, but also from flying blade fragments and ice.

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{iii} Flying ice

In winter, ice is deposited on the blades and may be flung off when the rotors move. Professor Wolfrum wrote: Some ice layers 150 mm thick have been detected and their mass has been as high as 20-23 kg/m. He demonstrated that these fragments could fly over 550m and land with impact speeds of up to 170 mph.

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{iv} Fire hazards

Turbine can cause fires due to escaped sparks or flames, when the turbine bearings wear out, crankcases run out of lubricant, cables are damaged during blade rotation, electrical shorts occur within the turbine unit, or electrical arcing in the transmission and distribution facilities occurs. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection grilled windfarm operators over a large fire caused by the Altamont Pass windfarm. Turbines themselves burn out. At Cemmaes, this happened not long after the windfarm had been operating. Witnesses saw ‘balls of fire’ fly from the turbine and the hill was lit ‘with a mass of red flames.’ Burning debris was flung for up to 150 m (including a bridleway). Another reason for concern if turbines are planned near to forestry.

There are many ways in which a wind turbine can ignite a wildfire. Electrical short circuits, an overheated bearing, downed electrical cables, welding splatter from technicians servicing the turbines, or even the catalytic converter on service vehicles can start a conflagration.

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{v} Lightning strikes

Lightning does strike at these huge wind turbines - one site in Cornwall was hit twice in three years. In Germany, a workman was killed after a lightning strike; he fell onto the turning blades. The larger the turbine, the more they are prone to lightning strike - the blades are the most often hit, and they can then delaminate and fly apart. The computerised controls inside the tower are also prone to lightning damage and can cause the turbine to run out of control.

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{vi} Stray voltage

This peculiar phenomenon results from an overflow of current travelling through the ground; a stray voltage is manifested as an elevated voltage being developed between the neutral and ground wires. This can be troublesome to dairy cows, but humans can be affected too.

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{vii} EMF

Electromagnetic force, or EMF, is produced from the transmission cables running from the turbine to the relay station, in many cases, several km from the windfarm site. The effects on life are a matter of much debate, although both Florida Power and Light and the NIEHS in the States stated it to be ‘a possible carcinogen.’ UK research suggests the same; for more information, read Denis Henshaw. Thus not only are overhead power lines a visual pollutant, and a danger to birds, they could also be a danger to human health. At least one action group exists to oppose these structures; REVOLT.

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{viii}Turbine siting

The turbines are often proposed to stand on a farmer’s land very close to the border to someone else’s property, sometimes even a hundred feet or so. Any neighbour, or any visitor, will technically be able to stand within a very short distance to the windfarm, and so be exposed to physical danger. If the turbine were to collapse, as occurred in Cumbria, UK, anything beneath would be totally flattened.

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{ix} Evidence from other countries

Annual reports suggest that the wearing of components, component failure and danger due to these factors when weighed with environmental factors are far more common than wind developers would have us believe. The IEA stated this year: There are occasional component faults that affect a large number of operating machines and The average turbine continues to grow in size and capacity. In Denmark last year, a main activity for the windpower sector was 'inspection of major breakdowns of turbines'.

These are the statistics for Germany in 1997:

FAILURE STATISTICS FOR 1997 IN GERMANY (1511 TURBINES)
FAULT % TURBINES AFFECTEDNO. TURBINES AFFECTED
Loosening of parts345
Cause unknown9136
Other causes11166
High wind576
Grid failure8120
Control system21317
Plant stoppage65982
Sensors11166
Other control and supervision15226
Gear box345
Rotor blades8121
Other (drive train)230
Icing345
Hydraulic system9136
Yaw system10151
Turbine structure345
Hub691
Mechanical brake7106
Generator576
Other electrical system21317
Other consequences18272
Overspeed460
Overload115
Noise460
Vibration230
Reduced power460
Causing follow-up defects230
Component failure36544
High wind576

Some of these failure causes are rather vague, yet certain facts emerge very strongly. First, 1511 turbines failed; an enormous number for an industry which claims reliability and first class safety. Next, it was reported to the IEA Agency in 1998 that ‘more than 50% of the causes of failure are identified with component failure and control system of the WECs, a quarter of the causes are identified with external influences (high wind, grid failure, lightning and icing)’. The following are the statistics for 2000:

FAILURE STATISTICS FOR 2000 IN GERMANY

FAULT % TURBINES AFFECTED
Loosening of parts3
Cause unknown8
Other causes10
High wind4
Grid failure6
Control system20
Icing1
Component failure44
Lightning4

Considering how much the wind industry want us to believe in their improvements, comaprison of the statistics is not very reassuring.

In Italy, three years ago, a windfarm at Sant’Agata di Puglia was struck by lightning, a rotor complex was severely damaged and several electric generators had to be replaced. Tests at the Acqua Spruzza mountain site gave further confirmation of problems ensuing from ‘icing, sudden snowfalls, heavy turbulence and lightning’.

In Mexico, at La Venta wind power station, three turbines failed (1998); in two of the machines, the gearbox failed due to inadequate shaft alignment when the generators were replaced by the manufacturer. During the commissioning phase at the Guerrero Negro wind station, automatic shutdowns happened due to an imbalance of reactive loads in the electric circuit.

In the US, as stated above, we have examples of forest fires and windfarms being sited away from highways because of possible danger to travellers.

Apart from demonstrating that wind turbines do bring with them various forms of danger due to their physical size, the electrical circuitry and external influences, it is also clear that considerable windfarm expertise and experience is needed to deal with any such occurrences. Unfortunately,many developers have neither.

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VIII Sites of archaeological interest

{i} Archaeological sites

Around the mountains and highlands of Ireland there are many ancient sites which deserve protection, megalithic tombs, cairns, standing stones, and holy wells. These are remains of the greatest interest and importance to Ireland, as many are probably the remnants left by the earliest settlers in this country. They should not be within reach of flying blades or ice, as they are precious and should be protected from damage. Developers’ cosmetic answers of building a fence around them, for example, are casual ones, which may lead to yet more eyesores in the area, and which will be of little defence. Besides, it may be argued (and has been) that it is a matter of great aesthetic stupidity to juxtapose an ancient monument with a 350 foot modern turbine. It is not difficult to see that the whole character of the monument and its surroundings would be irreparably ruined by the presence of the windfarm, and is not worth the profits that the company will enjoy.

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{ii} Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

CAT, a supporter of alternative technology, state the following in relation to windfarm planning: It is widely accepted that developing windfarms within or adjacent to ancient monuments or other sites of particular historical value would interfere unacceptably with the character of the site. Again, the vast majority of high wind speed sites are not included in such a category, and there is therefore no justification in developing those few that are.

Also, the European Best Practice Guidelines state The existence of listed buildings, Conservation Areas and archaeological sites may have an influence on the acceptability of a particular site.

In Greece, a proposed windfarm on Lesvos island was turned down due to archaeological interest in the area.

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{iii} Hidden sites of archaeological interest

In marshy areas which contain numerous ancient remains of archaeological value, it is difficult to believe that other monuments do not exist, buried under the peat bogs. Cursory assessments are not good enough, the risk of danger to unknown historical remnants too great. They should be left in peace, or until archaeological exploration is warranted, not destroyed by industry for the profit of a few businessmen.

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{iv} Historical values - general

Many rural areas teem with historical interest, so much so that it is hard to justify their defacement by these wind power station plans. Knockastanna, for example, is the scene of the famous Sarsfield’s ride; it seems inappropriate to erect an industrial plant as a memorial in such a site.

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IX Religious Objection

Tobernagommaun - holy wells in Ireland

In the townsland of Curraghakimikeen, adjacent to the site of the proposed windfarm at Knockastanna, lies an ancient holy well, sacred to saint Patrick, and called Tobernagommaun. It is mentioned by O’Danachair in The Holy Wells of County Limerick, and although no tradition survives it is regularly visited by residents in the area for religious purposes. This is not unique. There are many, many such sites throughout the country, and such sites are surely desrving of some respect.

In the Guidelines for Renewable Energy Developments, New Zealand, it is written: It is necessary to avoid waahi tapu or other particularly important sites. Consultation, as required under the Resource Management Act, with local iwi, and at times with hapu, is essential to ensure that wind farm developments are respectful to tribal associations and traditions. (Waahi tapu is a sacred site, location or resource; iwi and hapu are Maori tribes).

The Irish Guidelines also mention that importance should be attached to sites of religious importance. It seems fitting, in a religious community, that artefacts such as this holy well should be treated with the reverence it deserves. Siting an industrial windpower station adjacent to such an item demonstrates insensitivity and is totally appropriate.

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X Tourism

Are the windfarms an attraction? The developers have a hefty financial interest in thinking so. That’s why they coined the word ‘windfarms’, to give the impression of benignity and ecological sincerity. This is not reflected in the statistics. Wherever sites are set up, there is a temporary rise in tourism, though not necessarily for the scenery, more for educational purposes. After the novelty factor wears off, the numbers generally decline. A windfarm is a novel occurrence, but it is interesting that the figures fall in a windpower-developed country, just as the opposition rises respectively.

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XI Jobs

Windfarms will need little maintenance once it is up and running. There will, therefore, be no employment for locals, apart from perhaps a couple of part-time posts. And as the electricity will be sent to and redistributed via the nearest relay staion, there will be no benefit to locals with regard to either jobs or electricity production.

The only employment may be found in turbine manufacturers, which will be found (a) in townships, (b) if the turbines are not imported (most in Ireland are Vestas).

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XII House Prices

Claims by windpower developers that proximity to a wind turbine will not affect the value of the property is not borne out in fact.

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XIII Hydrological assessment

According to the European Best Practice Guidelines for Wind Energy Development, An assessment of the impact of the proposed development on water courses, their quality and quantity may be necessary. An assessment of spring water supplies should also be undertaken where considered appropriate. In upland areas, where many of the local residents rely on underground springs and wells for water for themselves and for their livestock, this is very appropriate. It should also be borne in mind, that the running of turbines has been known to divert natural water courses. It seems obvious that

Again, from the Guidelines: For wind turbines which require substantial foundations, it may be important to establish who obtains water for drinking or agricultural purposes from below ground sources within the relevant catchment area. A water interest study will reveal this information and may help to determine the potential effect of the development on spring water supplies.

If there is a danger that construction work could lead to damage to the underlying peat and sedimentation in the local streams or rivers, what damage will it do to the drinking water for the people of the area? In view of the unknown factor of terrain damage for which evidence is just emerging, the springs should not be tampered with.

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XIV Electricity production by windfarms

{i} Wind turbine inefficiency

The raison d’etre of wind’farms’, as with any other industrial power plant, is to create electricity. This is done by a dynamo-type principle, by which the torque of the rotating blades is transformed into electric current, which is then relayed via power cables to a convenient power station. But two things make windpower stand out from other modes of making electricity, be it fossil fuel burning, gas, nuclear, forestry/biomass burning, hydro - the wind turbine is an incredibly inefficient machine, and the renewable source is extremely variable in quantity. It cannot guarantee a continual source of electricity, because in the absence of wind it produces none; and if the wind blows stronger than with a moderate gust, the turbine must close down for safety reasons; modern turbines have an automatic shut-off facility if a certain speed limit is overreached. The supply, then, is sporadic, or intermittent, and this is why windpower can only ever act as a side supply, and a very meagre one at that.

As stated, the modern wind turbine is extremely inefficient. Hence its enormous size, made so to attempt to generate more than a mere trickle of current. In fact, the output of a windfarm is so small that throughout the world, not one conventional power station has been closed down because of windpower contributions. In Germany, 2000, there were 9369 turbines, producing 1.7% of the energy needed. If it were at all possible to run the country using windpower alone, and ignoring for a moment the intermittency problem, at this rate Germany would need 550,000 turbines. Already space is getting scarce, and planning permission is given more rarely now that the associated problems have become public, and now that the voice of complaint has become so loud it must be listened to. According to my own calculations, the UK would need something like 366,000 turbines, and it is unlikely to get those, as education is again causing a backlash of adverse opinion through the country.

All the windfarms in the world, if their outputs could be conjoined, would not rival one power station of the size of Drax in the UK.

The following table indicates the power consumed per country, and the pitiful contributions made by wind energy:-

Country MW windpowerWind output (GWh/y)Total output (TWh/y)Wind contribution (%)
Australia33421800.02
Canada1372805450.04
Denmark233842403512.1
Finland3879790.01
Germany609584004861.73
Greece214460401.15
Italy4275002860.17
Japan121768170.009
Mexico37.52160.003
Netherlands447750950.79
Norway1332.51200.03
Spain233441621962.1
Sweden2414481450.3
UK4088953880.23
USA2554600036880.16

A glance at this table, and especially at the right hand column, is enough to prove the pathetic contribution made by wind energy, even in the most wind-developed nations. Even in those cases where the wind potential is strongly tapped, it would take a ridiculously large number of turbines to make this alternative viable, and few more can be packed into some of these countries, especially as planning permission is harder to get and opposition voices are stronger. And then there is the question of intermittence and turbine inefficiency. The only country which has a notable output is Denmark; the following table of statistics helps to explain this:-

Country Population (Millions)Area (M sq km)No. turbinesTurbines per 1000 sq kmTurbines per Million People
Australia19.47.69760.014
Denmark5.40.0459731491106
Germany82.20.36936926117
Greece10.90.134813.744
Italy57.80.38192.714
Mexico99.61.97100.00050.1
Netherlands160.0412583279
Norway4.50.32230.085
Spain39.80.514022835
Sweden8.90.455170.158
UK600.248393.514

It will be noted that Denmark absolutely bristles with turbines; no less than seven per square kilometre, and just over one turbine per thousand people. Thus, taking as an example an average family of 4 persons, there is a turbine per 250 families - yet we see that electricity production is over 12%, so only 30 households are fed by the wind supply of one turbine. reduce this by factors appropriate to turbine inefficiency and a wind calm, and the true picture merges. Yet what about, again, industrial growth? Already the government is looking off-shore, as the land is running short of space.

But how does windpower production compare with other industries? The following table of American Energy production was donated by the energy expert Glenn Schleede:

Energy Source 1999 (bkWh)% of Total2010 forecast (bkWh)2010 forecast (% of total)2020 forecast(bkWh)2020 forecast (% of total)
Coal1879.3650.892248.0048.902350.2844.35
Nuclear729.7919.67720.2825.67574.2610.84
Natural Gas576.8815.621156.0325.151885.7235.59
Petroleum109.502.9726.620.5828.580.54
Other8.230.2211.380.2512.630.24
Hydropower312.008.45303.422.84302.355.71
Geothermal13.070.3525.270.5525.830.49
Wood, biomass36.570.9956.601.2365.671.24
Municipal Solid Wastes22.080.6034.030.7437.990.72
Solar Thermal0.890.021.110.021.370.03
Solar Photovoltaic0.050.001.260.032.110.04
Wind4.460.1212.330.2713.100.25

Taking into account this pathetic wind contribution, even accepting the possibilty of a rise in 2010, 2020, it begs the question whether the enormous funds ploughed into the invasive wind industry would not be better spent on other more profitable methods of power generation.

Another matter, never referred to by wind developers, is the manufacture of wind turbines. The books must be balanced, and the miserable trickle of electricity produced by turbines must be balanced against the electricity actually consumed to manufacture them; the factories which exist simply to supply windpower equipment. The electrical power consumed by such industries is not negligible, and also demonstrates another facet of industrialisation brought about by so-called 'green' wind energy. Where, in fact, does this energy come from? Windpower?! In the countries like Germany, which contains many manufacturing plants, it is pertinent to ask whether the wind energy production can even cover that required to manufacture the turbines!!

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{ii} The situation in Ireland

The main fossil fuel plant in the area is Moneypoint in the Shannon area which has a rating of 900MW, and we shall take this as an average example of a fossil-fuel burning station. In order to compare output, we need to evaluate the power produced by Irish windpower.

These windfarms are mostly in the west of Ireland, and stretch down from Derry, Donegal down to Cork. All in some of the most wild and beautiful sites in the country. Now if we total the output of all of these wind’farms’, we get a grand total rating of - 116.36MW. And it must be remembered that these are rough figures, and probably overestimates; it varies as to wind availability / turbine efficiency, which is usually lower in practice than in theory, about 0.2-0.3. Government figures for the UK showed an average 26.7% output from an installed capacity of 318MW in 1998, yielding a mere 85MW. If we accept this figure as at least a good indicator, then the Irish grand total plummets to 31.06MW. If this is the case, then the result is that every turbine in Ireland adds up to one ninetieth of the electricity created by one power plant in Shannon - just over 1%.

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{iii} Electricity production proposed at Knockastanna in perspective

Wind developers are enthusiastic in their claims for electricity production. Knockastanna, they claim, would be of moderate size. It gives a total power rating of 8-10 MW, which sounds very impressive. It is large compared to other Irish windfarms, but how much would it contribute to the people of Munster?

It needs first of all to be seen in its true perspective. The UK figures shown above would lessen this figure to between 2.1 and 2.7 MW (between 0.23% and 0.30% of the output of Moneypoint power station). The on line power now decreases from a stated 100MW to 27MW. And, more importantly, the number of houses falls from 7000-8000 to 1869-2136. That puts mattes in its brightest light. But would this capacity do as much as provide electricity for a single factory or a hospital?

The Anglesey Aluminium Metal Ltd factory in Wales needs 220MW of constant, uninterrupted, reliable power. It would require 8-9 windfarms the size of Knockastanna to power this one industrial plant.

The QE2 liner uses 90MW at full power, the Knockastanna station could not get anywhere near that amount.

Drax power station could produce the annual electricity proposed by this Knockastanna station in two hours.

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{iv} Is such a small production worthwhile?

There are other forms of ‘green’ power production less intrusive than windfarms. And, with wind energy, the rural beauty is ruined, wildlife disrupted, residents tormented, for such an infinitesimally small amount of power.

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XV Pollution and global warming

{i} Fossil fuel depletion

A problem affecting society is the depletion of fuel resources worldwide. Many scientists argue that the resources, being finite, will dry up at some point, although when that point is is a matter of uncertainty. According to a report from the Club of Rome, 1972, they should have disappeared in 1990.

Some do not see the need for panic. Dr A McFarquar of Cambridge University argued in the Times that reserves of coal will probably never be exhausted, because ‘coal became obsolete, with huge and useless British and World reserves’. (1999). Mr Huberts, of Royal Dutch Shell, said ‘The stone age did not end because the world ran out of stones and the oil age will not end because the world runs out of oil’ (the Economist). As for gas, ‘we see no grounds for major concern over the very diverse countries of origin of supplies of gas, nor the prospects of prices being driven unnaturally high by cartel ... There are no reasons either on grounds of security of supply or of confidence in long term availability to resist the growing use of gas.’ (Energy Policy June 1998 - House of Commons Trade and industry Committee).

Of course, this does not mean that the world at large can become complacent, and, indeed, every effort should be made to conserve these finite supplies; hence the search for methods of producing energy by renewable means. Unfortunately, as shall be shown, windpower will have little effect on fossil fuel burning.

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{ii} The greenhouse effect and global warming

There has been much debate about the emission of noxious gases, the enhancement of the greenhouse effect and the resultant global warming will will become critical if temperatures keep rising at present rates. The causal mechanism is infrared absorption in the atmosphere. Solar energy when entering the atmosphere may be absorbed by clouds or reflected back into space; just over 50% make it to the earth, where it is then used in number of processes including: the heating of the ground surface; the melting of ice and snow and the evaporation of water; and plant photosynthesis. This heat results in the earth becoming a radiator of infrared radiation, the majority of which is absorbed by a few naturally occurring atmospheric gases known as the greenhouse gases, specifically those absorbing in the 8-12 micrometre infrared window. Absorption of this energy causes additional heat energy to be added to the Earth's atmospheric system, 90% of which is reflected back to earth.

All of the major greenhouse gases have increased in concentration since the beginning of the industrial revolution (about 1700 A.D); as a result of these higher concentrations, the greenhouse effect will be enhanced and the Earth's climate will become warmer. But higher temperatures may lead to water evaporation from the seas; hence greater cloud cover which would be more efficient at reflecting the sun’s energy back into space, effectively counteracting the greenhouse effect.

A number of gases are involved in the greenhouse effect; these gases include: carbon dioxide CO2 (sources of this gas include: fossil fuel combustion for industry, transportation, space heating, electricity generation and cooking; and vegetation changes in natural prairie, woodland and forested ecosystems); methane CH4 (primary sources for the additional methane added to the atmosphere are: rice cultivation, domestic grazing animals, termites, landfills, coal mining, and oil and gas extraction); nitrous oxide N2O - (deforestation and the conversion of forest, savanna and grassland ecosystems into agricultural fields and rangeland; also burning of fossil fuels and biomass (minor importance)); chlorofluorocarbons (CFxClx); and tropospheric ozone (03) - (contribution unknown). Of these gases, the single abundant gas is carbon dioxide which accounts for about 55 % of the change in the intensity of the Earth's greenhouse effect. The contributions of the other gases are 25 % for chlorofluorocarbons, 15 % for methane, and 5 % for nitrous oxide. Ozone's contribution to the enhancement of greenhouse effect is still yet to be quantified.

But the contribution of carbon dioxide may have been overstated. Each chemical may be described in terms of its global warming potential (GWP), and methane is found to have a GWP of 21 compared with carbon dioxide’s 1. Also, methane remains in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than carbon dioxide, making its removal or reduction a source of faster short-term gains. It has been argued by Dr James Hansen of NASA that the global warming over the past century was not mostly driven by carbon dioxide, but by other chemicals such as methane and chlorofluorocarbons. Research done by Dr V Gray (Carbon Dioxide and Methane Revisited) and Dr J Ahlbeck(Carbon Dioxide Sink 1970-2000 and Model Projections To 2100, Increase Of The Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration Due To Ocean Warming), conclude that we are putting the chicken before the egg; that increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the centuries is in fact a result of global warming rather than vice versa, and that this in turn was due to ocean warming. In fact, fluctuations in these levels over a long term do not demonstrate a link to human activity. Further research by Dr M Hulme casts serious doubts over scientific knowledge of the mechanism of climate change.

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{iii} The contribution made by windfarms to combat global warming

In as far as the following discussion is concerned, we shall ignore the conclusions above, and for the moment accept the proposal that carbon dioxide is the most important factor as a greenhouse gas. Windpower developers argue that the electricity produced by their ‘farms’ is clean and environmentally-friendly, and their production will naturally lead to a decrease in the burning of fossil fuels, and thence a beneficial effect on global warming. But even if this was the case, the electricity production is so small that the saving in fossil fuels is minimal. Last year, as already stated, Germany had 9369 turbines, which only produced 1.7% of its power. That 1.7% represents the amount which would normally have been produced by other methods, but not necessarily fossil fuels - a proportion would have been made by nuclear processes, gas, hydro, biomass etc, which means that only a tiny fraction of fossil fuels would be saved. The respective global warming reduction would be also small, 0.001 - 0.002 as calculated by the Darmstadt Professors. But, remember the turbines need to be manufactured. So one must deduct the appropriate percentage from the figures above, which leaves a very paltry sum indeed.

The amount of carbon dioxide saved per turbine is explained succinctly by Country Guardian in the following scenario:

A large turbine in Gloucestershire saves less than the amount of carbon dioxide produced by just one articulated lorry. At Nympsfield in Gloucestershire a single 500kW gearless Enercon turbine was commissioned in Dec 1996. Its annual output is about .11 million kWh (Tilting At windmills BBC2, 2.2.99). Since the turbine generates not only during the day, when it might displace oil- or coal-fired generation, but also at night when mainly nuclear and gas generation are still operating, it us logical to assume that it displaces a mix of fuels, rather than only coal or oil. Department of Trade and Industry figures indicate that the 1995 generating fuel mix produced an average of 620g of carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated. Thus we can calculate that the Nympsfield turbine saved about 688 tonnes each year, or 0.078 tonnes per hour. An articulated lorry travelling at 50mph along a motorway produces 0.08 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hour. Given the uncontrolled growth of road traffic, the erecting of turbines is a futile exercise. How many turbines would we have to build each year merely to keep pace with traffic growth?

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{iv} Industrial growth

Let us again take up the example of Germany in 2000. 9369 turbines to produce 1.7% of their electricity, less the quantity consumed in windfarm component manufacture. But estimates suggest that industry in Europe is growing at an average rate of 10-20%; the need for power (including that consumed in windpower-related activities) is therefore growing at a comparable rate. So, in effect, more coal and oil is burned year after year, because the paltry output from the turbines cannot keep up with this increase. So even in the most wind-developed country, each year the national result is an increase in global warming.

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{v} Windpower station construction

What wind developers rarely mention is the negative contribution to greenhouse gases and global warming. Each windpower station needs to be constructed; this means a six-month period of road laying, traffic congestion (and traffic is a major producer of carbon dioxide), concrete laying, and building work; a major construction project. Now let us look again at the German situation. 9369 turbines unable to do anything about the annual increase in carbon dioxide production and hence global warming. But if we take a windfarm to consist in average of 8 turbines, then Germany has the equivalent of 1170 windfarms; the building of these alone is the equivalent of a construction site working constantly for over 550 years. The negative aspect now is seen in perspective. It is even more harrowing to consider that if Germany were to build sufficient windfarms to be self-sufficient (which it could never be thanks to the intermittency problem) then the construction would be the equivalent of a construction site working constantly for 55,000 years - fifty five millennia. This does not take into consideration:
  • the dismantling of these or their replacement at the end of their useful lives (approximately twenty years or so), which could double this figure.
  • the construction of windfarm components, which considerably adds to the figures here quoted.

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{vi} Kyoto Protocol and EC Directives

At the summit in Japan in 1999, the industrial world agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 5% (the Kyoto Protocol. By 1999 (December) only 16 nations had ratified the protocol. US have already walked out. In May 2000, the EC directed that the contribution of renewable energy sources should increase from 6% to 12%.

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{vii} The solution to global warming and fossil fuel depletion

Whatever may be the final solution, it is apparent that windfarms will not be contributory. No fossil fuel stations have ever been closed by the presence of windfarms. The reduction in global warming, and greenhouse gases, will not happen, or at least, windfarms will not contribute for the factors enumerated above.

In the US, Glenn Scleede wrote: The preceding analysis of the two huge “wind farms” recently announced in Texas demonstrate clearly that wind energy is a niche technology that will do little to offset the need for the people of the United States to depend on coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear energy and hydropower for their electricity for years to come. (‘Texas Projects Demonstrate Wind’s Limited Potential’, Power Online, 5/10/2000).

But several steps could be taken which could help solve the problems:

  1. Plough money, not into windfarms, but into making the present power stations more efficient. This has been done to great effect in Germany, and have led to significant reductions in emissions.
  2. Control traffic, and the petrol consumption. Traffic is a huge factor in pollutant gas emission.
  3. Look to less intrusive forms of renewable energy, such as hydro, biomass, forestry.
  4. Solar panels to produce electricity on a one-to-one basis.
  5. Stop the incredible energy wasting in the average household (65% of energy used is wasted) by advertisements. It has been calculated that, if a light bulb were changed in the UK to one of lower wattage, a coal-fired power station could be closed. Here is an instructive case from Country Guardian:-

    Wind turbines v Energy Saving - A Case Study. There are 1628000 houses in the UK with pitched roof and no roof insulation. 3780 kWh of energy are lost by each house each year. Insulation to 1990 Building Regulations standard would save 3375kWh per year. The annual output of a 750kW turbine is 1.64m units. Insulating 485 houses would save that amount of energy each year. New funding arrangements will give wind energy a subsidy of 2p per unit (UK figures). The annual subsidy of the turbine will be 32850 pounds. The cost of insulation is a one-off 122 pounds per house, say 60000 for 485 houses. Over the 100 year life of the houses, the energy saving cost averages 680 pounds per annum. Saving pollution by insulation is 55 times more cost-effective than saving it by wind turbines.

  6. Look to gas - it is much cleaner than coal or peat and even wind, when the construction process is taken into consideration.
Robert L Bradley, Cato Policy Analysis: The $5.8 billion spent by the Department of Energy on wind and solar subsidies over the last 20 years is the financial equivalent of replacing between 5,000 and 10,000 MW of the nation's dirtiest coal capacity with gas-fired combined-cycle units, which would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions between one-third and two-thirds. In contrast, the 2,100 MW of U.S. wind and solar capacity present today, which equates to around 700 MW on a dependable capacity basis, has displaced far less CO2 emissions. Simple mathematics shows that a one-third reduction in CO2 emissions for 5,000 to 10,000 MW is from three to four times greater than even a hypothetical 100 percent reduction in CO2 emissions for 700 MW.

All of the above would have a positive impact on the problems. If the futile answer of windfarms must be pushed forward, in spite of their problems, many are swayed to look at projects out to sea; some environmental and residential objections may be resolved, but not visual impact, migration seabird paths, sailing or shipping routes, and fishing grounds as well as fishing routes. It will not provide answers, only be a cosmetic exercise, but may reduce the harmful impacts experienced because of land-based sites, at the expense of new ones engendered by the different situation.

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{viii} Quotes on the effect of windfarms

The National Trust, the conservation charity denounced the false hopes and flawed solutions offered by many ‘green energy’ schemes, such as windfarms and wood-fuelled power stations. ‘We shall not be seduced by what appears to be ‘green’ renewable energy solutions which will make little real difference to fossil use’, the National Trust said. The charity added that it was particularly concerned about wind energy. (Financial Times, 20-05-99).

We do not feel it makes sense to tackle one environmental problem by creating another. (Countryside Commission, UK, 1997).

Nowhere can I find any mention of reservations expressed by either knowledgeable organisations or those who wish to protect the environment. Instead the Committee urges the government to even greater efforts to produce a wholly unworkable electricity supply system to the ruination of the landscape. (Prof M A Laughton, HC194, Report and Proceedings of the ETRA Committee, Vol 1, Session 1998-9, Vol 171-II).

To us these windfarms are a disaster in the counytryside, we know their effect on global warming is pathetically tiny, but to the Government they are seen as proof positive to a gullible populace that something really is being done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. (Edward Luscombe, CEng, Bsc (Eng), MIEE).

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XVI Finance and Policy

{i} Profits

The fact is clear that when considering all the disadvantages and pitfalls of windpower, there is one very attractive advantage - there is money to be made. Wind energy appears to the general public to be clean and efficient, so the face of wind technology is a good sell to them. Wind developers jump on the green bandwagon, even though they provide a service after serious damage to environment, landscape and traditions; the industrialisation of the countryside.

It is obvious that windpower development would hold no attraction for businessman if there were no profit to be gained. Businessman are no conservationists, with the best will in the world; nor are they green campaigners or friends of the earth. This was not their chosen careers. They want to invest to reap the profits. There can be no gainsaying the motives of a windfarm developer.

There are other incentives to invest in windfarms; financial institution are very windpower-friendly, and many countries have hard cash incentives, tax credits and grants available.

A recent Dutch report stated There is an abundance of capital available through the Green Funds. Green Funds of the three major banks are competing to invest in wind energy projects with low interest rates. The green interest was 3 to 5%, depending on the term of the loan - 2,5, or 10 years. Average interest rates on the regular capital market were 4.5 to 7%. All non-utility investors in wind energy finance their projects through the Green Funds. Utilities finance their investments from their own cash flow and calculate with an internal rate of return of 5%. Since 1999, there are also tax incentives, Energy Investment Deductions scheme, regulating energy tax and free depreciation of renewable energy installations via the Accelerated Depreciation on Environmental Investment Scheme.

In Germany, where investment grants are available, in the first half of 1998, the capital investment in windfarms was about 675000000DEM; in 2000, the total commerce connected with WECs amounted to 3.66 billion DEM.

In Greece, 1994, a new law allowed anyone to build windfarms, with a simplified procedure and attractive buy-back terms, with the result that private sector became increasingly interested.

Ireland at the moment has the AER schemes, which allows any company to bid for the right to supply power to the ESB.

EXAMPLES OF FUNDING FOR WINDPOWER PROJECTS AND RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

COUNTRY FUNDING
AUSTRALIACommonwealth Government Support for 'renewable showcase' 1M AUD; Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program (1999-2001)29.6M AUD; for the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia, 500000AUD; through REEF (for R and D and commercialisation) 21M AUD; to support remote power generation (2000-4) 321M AUD; from Sustainable Energy Development Authority for windpower 5M AUD
CANADAProgram of National Resources (WERD) 550000CAD; Contracts, research institutions, etc 1.5M CAD;also funding from National Research Council, and Technology Early Action Measures (TEAM)
DENMARK(2001) 5 projects supported for 11.98M DKK
GERMANYResearch and Development 69M FDEM; '250MW Wind Program' 23.28M DEM; ELDORADO 0.09M DEM
GREECEFunding of certain projects; funding from the Secretariat for Research and Tecnology
ITALYResearch and Development funding 2 billion ITL
JAPANResearch and Development funding 9356M yen
NETHERLANDSWind energy program 1999-2000 31.8M guilders
NORWAYIn project to construct 1000-1100MW by 2010, 2 billion NOK
SWEDENWind development 1998-2000 46.8M SEK
USA2001 funding - 40M USD

It is shocking to consider how this huge quantity of money may have been utilised far more successfully in schemes to seriously counter greenhouse effects, pollution and the production of power.

In fact, most countries have incentives for the development of wind turbines, under the illusion that this will help the environment, or the power problems of the world. When incentives are stopped, the wind industry tends to decline (note the California wind rush of 1981-5); everywhere, businessmen are trying to increase the already over-generous incentives or to gain new ones. There follows a list of incentives so far available in some countries world-wide.

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{ii} Summary Of International Incentives For Wind Developers

COUNTRY FINANCIAL INCENTIVES
ARGENTINAImport duty exemption
AUSTRALIAEarning of tradable RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates). Green Electricity Market being developed to establish trading platform for trading green electricity rights, etc.
BRAZILTemporary tax exemption. Production Tax credit. Cash payments
CANADAAn accumulated rate of write-off allowed (30% pa on a declining balance basis). Income Tax Act allows first turbine to be fully deductable in the first year of the installation. Flow-through financing sYstem extended. Green Power Purchase system; developers sell power to government-owned facilities
CHINAReduction of custom duty. Income Tax reimbursement. Obligation on utilities to buy windpower
DENMARKPower utilities obliged to pay developers a % of the utility's production and distribution costs. CO2 tax. Direct subsidies. Introduction of RECs. Minimum kWh price guaranteed
FINLANDUp to 30% subsidy. Price premium of 42FIM awarded per MWh
FRANCEEmission taxes. Standards. Environmental regulations.
GERMANYAll grid operators must give priority to all renewable energy sources. Fixed tariffs. Some states give funding. Taxable income reduced, assuming depreciation time of 13 years; taxes reduce by about 30000DEM/year
GREECELaw 2601/98 - wind developers may be subsidised up to 40%. Also to receive 'soft loans' of up to 40%. Some projects funded by the secretariat for Research and Technology
INDIAVaries between states: cash subsidies, exemption from Sales Tax (50-100% of investment), exemption from generating tax, 100% accelerated depreciation
INDONESIACash subsidies. Standard renewable energy contracts
ITALYA share of carbon tax revenues to be devoted to renewable energy. Subsidy of up to 40% to build turbines on smaller islands. Power production of multiples of 100MWh to be awarded tradable green certificates. Southern Italy regional plans (PORs) result in subsidisation of varying degrees
JAPANSubsidy Programme since 1995 (up to 33-50%; also 100% for wind measurement for 1 year). Tokyo company (TEPCO) launched a Green Power Fund. Japan Natural Energy Co. Ltd. aims to balance the extra cost of erecting turbines by issuing Green Electrcity Certificates
NETHERLANDSRegulating Energy Tax (similar to eco-tax). Tax incentives. Green Fund investments. Energy Investment Deduction Scheme (allows developer to deduct 40% of investment in turbines from company profits in the year of investment). Accelerated Depreciation Of Environmental Investment Scheme (free deprecation of turbine installations). Creation of 'reasonable' payback rate for developers. Consumers buying 'green' pay no eco-tax
NORWAYInvestment tax for turbines (7%) exemption. Energy production 'support' of half of the general electricity level (0.0428NOK/kWh)
PHILIPPINESCustoms tax exemption. Preferential prices for 'green' energy
SPAINPrice paid for electricity regulated by 2 Royal Decrees (fixed annually). Connection to grid guaranteed.
SWEDEN15% investment cost subsidised. Electricity market liberated 1996. Developers get market price plus an 'environmental bonus' plus income from the transmission net owner (typically 0.010 - 0.015 SEK/kWh)
UKREO system (bidding for supply). Contracts index-linked for 15 years. Capital grants for early off-shore projects. If financed from balance sheets of larger institutions, bank interest rates may be cut from 15-25% to 8-12%
USATax credit system. Renewable energy production incentive. Public choice of selecting green power. Green 'tag' system. Some states insist on % of all electricity bought must be from renewable sources.

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{iii} Policy

The false face of environmental concern and greenness fades when investment matters come to the fore. It would be sensible for wind energy associations to work closely with environmental organisations, so that if wind turbines must be sited, then they may do so with the minimum of disturbance to people, wildlife and the nature of the surroundings. But this does not happen in practice. A joint letter has been written about such concerns, and signed by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, An Taisce, BirdWatch Ireland, Earthwatch, Irish Wildlife Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Ireland. To take a couple of examples from other countries:

  • Holland. The annual report 1998 stated: The Netherlands R&D Strategy - Wind Energy, formerly the NRW Plan, has been revised for the period 1999-2003. He workshop during which the strategy was discussed was attended by representatives of wind turbine and blade manufacturers, engineering firms, end users (utilities, insurance companies, and certifying institutes) and the programme managers ECN, TU Delft and Novem. Priorities for 30 R, D&D areas were set. The priority subjects are the following:
    1. New developments: offshore. Innovative materials and recycling.
    2. Testing and measuring: condition-monitoring systems, wind turbine test facilities.
    3. Databases. Failure statistics of wind turbines and components.
    4. Design tools. Reliability, wind turbines, control, aerodynamics.
    This reflects the true standpoint of wind energy enthusiasts. The whole strategy is centred around improving efficiency and industrial development. The effects on neighbouring residents or the environment are not even discussed.
  • Italy. Again, from the 1998 annual report: At the end of 1997 the Minister of Industry Commerce and Trade, with the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of University and Technological and Scientific Research, entrusted ENEA to organise a new National Conference on Energy and the Environment in November 1998. The main aims of the initiative are to overcome some barriers such as lack and weakness of the electric grid in the most promising windy areas, to define some general rules about the permission process, in order to get the authorisation for installing windfarms in a shorter time, and finally to establish with the ABI (Italian Bank Association) better and clearer conditions of project financing.
The Environment is only a matter of concern in that windy areas need to be established. More serious is the attempt to speed up the permission process, giving the public little time to learn about the adverse aspects of windpower and to submit any objections, bearing in mind that the developer has had time on his side to develop arguments for his project.

I recently received a letter written by Mr J Jacob, Minister of State, in reply to a letter from me detailing my concerns about wind energy promotion. The situation is similar to those above. A new Renewable Energy Strategy Group has been formed, alas, not to work with environmental organisations. Their Strategy for Intensifying Wind Energy Deployment recommends the development of a customised digital terrain map showing the wind resource, electricity network and suitable sites from the planning perspective; beneficial in the on-going identification of sites where wind energy plants might be developed. This digitised map would then be compiled and maintained by the Irish Centre’s Renewable Energy Information Office (REIO). On my point that the Irish Guidelines should be updated, his answer was that they should indeed - to produce a national standard and to increase certainty, to the maximum extent, for project developers. Again, the focus is on finance, not on the environment or people living in the vicinity. Banks in general are prepared to lend 70-90% of the total cost of the windfarm in this country.

If there is to be a continuation of wind development, then the state of the country must be taken into account, not merely ways and means of increasing profit. Should all factors be taken into consideration, there may be an amicable method for site choice - preferably offshore.

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{iv} Cost of windpower production

'Why Renewable Energy Is Not Cheap And Not Green'(Robert L Bradley Jr): The high-cost propensity of wind power is a negative, not a positive, aspect of the industry. Prices reflect relative scarcity, and the price of wind-power energy is substantially higher than the price of electricity from other sources. Resources devoted to wind power are thus wasted in an economy where wants are greater than the resources available to meet them, and better alternatives are forgone. Without subsidies, less renewable energy infrastructure would have been built and consumers would have had lower cost electricity. The saved resources (land, labor, and capital) would have gone to a more competitive source of electricity or, more likely, given electricity-generation overcapacity, to a different endeavor entirely. Electricity consumers, in turn, would have incremental savings to spend elsewhere in the economy. The result of wind-power investments in California is the existence of an uneconomic renewable energy industry and an underused natural gas infrastructure. Consequently, it has contributed to artificially high rates and a substantial ratepayer surcharge for stranded cost recovery (jargon for generation facilities and third-party contracts incapable of delivering power at competitive prices in a restructured market; utility companies argue that the public should compensate them for those now uneconomic investments) in the restructuring period.

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XVII Conclusions

{i} Inefficient and not green

The windfarm alternative is inefficient, and does little if anything to reduce global warming and pollutant emissions, especially in the construction phase. It will never close a conventional power plant, therefore fossil fuels will not be saved. This document objects to the serious repercussions on the area this futile project will produce. There are no ‘green’ advantages to the wind alternative.

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{ii} Quality of life

The furtherance of this project would mean irreparable damage to the environment and to the quality of residents’ lives.

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{iii} Precedent

The people of rural Ireland have a right to object to their surroundings being damaged irreparably because of the attempt of businessmen to make money out of the wind turbines. It is inconceivable that city-dwelling businessmen, whose only ambition is to profit from a financial venture, should have the power to so completely ruin the character of some of Ireland’s most beautiful rural areas. These projects would also set a precedent for other similar projects, to the continuing detriment of the countryside.

There are wider concerns. There must be a stop to the continuous erection of these unhelpful windfarms, if the heritage of Irish countryside, wildlife and the traditions of rural Irishmen are to be protected. Other European countries are hearing the call from Universities, conservationists, and action groups who fear that their country is becoming a turbine wilderness. The financiers are running a race against time; after a period of a few years there will be a backlash and questions will be asked about how the madness first began. Already I have encouraging relies from the Dail, including one from a senator who always upheld windfarming, and has now begun to have second thoughts. If the adverse factors of windpower become more public, the end of this blight may be in sight; there must be work done towards the end of this nonproductive windfarm scenario.

Already, the Irish Wind Energy Association is making itself heard; advertising in papers especially among the farming community is escalating. The trend is ominous. Our local developer stated that they chose Knockastanna instead of more viable options such as Slievefelim and Gortnageragh (better wind sites, closer to national grid) because they were more exposed visually and could be seen by more people - as if the residents in the Knockastanna area are unimportant! More worrying is the addendum: they (Slievefelim and Gortnageragh) will become more attractive options as wind turbines become more common on the landscape and public acceptance of the visual aspect grows. The implications for the future of the area’s landscape are obvious.

We have inherited the timeless beauty of these landscapes from our forebears and we recognise our duty to safeguard their peace and serenity for future generations. If we proceed with this present policy for on-shore commercial windfarms future generations will be amazed that we overwhelmed the landscape with such a pointless and destructive response to the challenge of reducing pollution n our atmosphere. Informed, as they will be, of the true facts, I doubt if they will forgive us. ‘When The Wind Blows’, Faculty of Building Journal Oct 2000).

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The Irish Situation

The Irish windmill flourished from medieval times up to the middle of the 19th century. In 1800, for example, there were over 100 working windmills in Ireland. But about fifty years later, the advent of steampower caused a sudden halt to the time-honoured machines, and now only three of the originals exist. On another note, wind turbines made a visit to the island in 1992, on the wing of the windpower explosion, and over the last few years have escalated to today's levels. The Irish Wind Energy Association soon sprang up (1993), and now many private investors are pressing to jump on the bandwagon, especially after recent nationwide advertising and campaigning, much of it behind the environmental flag ('greenwashing'). A large company, Eirtricity, grew up following a merger between Future Wind Partnership (1998) and National Toll Roads.

The first wind'farm' was erected in 1992 in Bellacorrick, Co Mayo, and was the only one until four years later; then the vogue 'niche' industry began to lay down more and more. The following is a table of Irish windfarms, listed in order of age:

IRISH WINDFARMS

Wind'farm'CountyYearNo. TurbinesMW
BellacorrickMayo1992216.45
CorkeyNI1994106
Rigged HillNI199445
Bessey BellNI1995105
Elliott's HillNI199565
Slieve RushenNI1995105
BarnesmoreDonegal19962515
OwenreaghNI1996105
ArignaLeitrim1997106
CarkDonegal19972515
CronolaghtDonegal199754.98
KilronanRoscommon1997105
Slieve NahanaganNI199711
CrockahennyDonegal1998105
DrumloughDonegal199884.8
CurrabweeKerry199974.62
InverinGalway199942.64
Lendrum's BridgeNI199995.94
AnargetDonegal200031.98
Beal HillKerry200011.65
BeennageehaKerry200063.96
BurrenMayo200041.6
CronolaghtDonegal200084.98
CulliaghDonegal20001811.88
CurrabweeCork200074.26
Largan HillRoscommon200095.94
Milane HillCork200095.94
TursillaghKerry20002315.18

The incentive for private investment in wind has been based on the AER, Alternative Energy Requirements, 1-5, allowing companies to bid for candidates of electrical supply to the ESB. However, as will be seen, the IWEA is none too happy with that, although other wind developers have no such objection.

In reply to representations made on my behalf, Mr Joe Jacob, Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise, summarised the Government's position in his reply. The following is based upon that letter.

The development of renewable energy technologies as a means of electricity production is now an important part of the Government’s overall energy policy. As Minister with responsibility for energy matters, Joe Jacob published his Green Paper on Sustainable Energy in September 1999 as part of the policy review of measures for 'energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy resources'. An increased target of 500MWe of additional renewable energy based electricity generating plant was established to be procured in the period 2000-2005 with the bulk to be delivered from the wind energy sector.

The offer of contracts for renewable energy plants is subject to the receipt of planning permission for the site and/or electricity grid connection, as appropriate. As part of the planning process, an Environmental Impact Assessment study may also be required in accordance with the provisions of the European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment Amendment) Regulations, 1999.

In the Green Paper Mr Jacob also announced his intention to establish a Renewable Energy Strategy Group to report on 'obstacles to the further development of the renewable energy sector concentrating on wind energy initially'. The Strategy Group’s report Strategy for Intensifying Wind Energy Deployment was published in July 2000. The Group has concluded that 3 key elements, Electricity Market, Electricity Network and Spatial Planning need to be integrated into a plan led approach to wind energy deployment. In this regard the Strategy Group recommended that the development of a customised digital terrain map showing the wind resource, electricity network and suitable sites from the planning perspective would be beneficial in the ongoing identification of sites where wind energy plants might be developed. In addition, areas not suitable for such developments would also be identified. The digitised map would then be compiled and maintained by the Irish Energy Centre’s Renewable Energy Information Office (REIO).

'While experience to date shows that the planning process is generally supportive of wind energy projects, there is anecdotal evidence that there is a need for greater cohesion between energy policy and environmental/planning policy. The recent enactment of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, provides for increased emphasis on the proper planning and sustainable development of areas and it is in this context that a joint letter, signed by our colleague, Noel Dempsey, TD, Minister for the Environment and Local Government and I was issued to all Local Authorities on 14th March 2001. We requested that the base work commence on the process outlined above with the ultimate goal of incorporating the data in all Local Authority Development Plans, on the basis of the digitised map when prepared by REIO.'

'In regard to the publication Windfarm Development - Guidelines for Planning Authorities, the Renewable Energy Strategy Group has recommended that the Guidelines should be updated in order to assist planners in operating to a national standard and to increase certainty, to the maximum extent, for project developers. The Department of Environment and Local Government will have overall responsibility for the updating of the Guidelines.'

This, then, is the official standpoint to date. The plan to provide maps of grid connections / windspeeds has no regard to wildlife sensitivity or respect for communities. Areas of wildlife sensitivity, SACs, communities have not been incorporated into any planning, should this silly industry continue; many conservation groups have called for this, and surely it would be better to work together than to create bad feeling? Wind energy is now an Irish political football.

The Irish Wind Energy Association are quick to push their political and financial demands. In an e-mail, strictly to IWEA members, some politicians and members of the press, their demands were fully exposed. This has since been made public. A summary of this document follows:

1.Indexation Increase. As a result of pressure from the IEWA and its members, the Department of Public Enterprise has increased the indexation in AER5 from 10% of the Consumer Price Index to 25% of the CPI. "While this is an improvement, we must remember that AER5 wind energy will be the only electricity that ESB Public Electricity Supply (PES) buys from anybody that is not 100% indexed linked (this is obvious from peat contract and from a recent ESB PES - PG regulation document from the CER)".

2 Refusal of PES to release the AER5 draft Power Purchase Agreement. The 3 promises below be delivered (a) allow an opt-out of the AER5 PPA at any time (b) have all references to Green Credits removed (c) explicitly say that the power will be paid for ‘at the gate’ of the wind farm.

3 Tax incentives. "Tom Kennington at the Department of Public Enterprise is continuing to lobby the Department of Finance on the need for a tax-based incentive for wind energy - the industry should both support and encourage him; the MRP Committee is keeping in touch with his progress in this regard. Minister McCreevy has recently indicated that he would welcome discussion on the matter and the MRP Committee will be writing to request a meeting in the coming days."

4 CER Stud into Constraining Off. "Constraining off will be essential if capacity is to be maximised and connection cost minimised."

5 IWEA representations on the Board of the Sustainable Energy Authority (formerly IEC).

6 Higher concentration on politics and media coverage.

This is a very comprehensive list comprising huge financial packages and a bid for political clout. As expected, no reference to environmental issues, only to a bid for more profit.

But there are anti-windpower allies even in the wind energy camp; this is Eirtricity's comment on the IWEA claims:

10th May 2001: Irish Wind Energy Association greed will cost Ireland hundreds of millions

Because of its obligations to combat climate change Ireland is committed to increasing the number of wind farms in Ireland by over 500% in the next 4 years. In a media release this week the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) stated that in order to achieve this target they were demanding a 50% increase on the price of power offered by the Government under the Alternative Energy Requirement programme.

According to eirtricity Managing Director Dr. Eddie O’Connor ‘it is clear that they see this as an opportunity to hold the country to ransom. For the IWEA to expect a 50% pay increase at a time when the actual costs of wind energy are dropping is the kind of short term thinking that can only be damaging to the development of a vibrant indigenous Irish wind energy industry. eirtricity, by embracing the opportunities of the deregulated electricity market has actually built 3 wind farms without direct subsidy in the last year and in so doing has built up a customer base of over 8,000 small business consumers. The IWEA on the other hand have done nothing except sit and wait and expect the Government and the Irish electricity consumer to bankroll them. If the government capitulate to this outrageous demand time will show it to be a disaster for the wind energy industry for the simple fact that the country could not afford to build many more wind farms if this programme is such a give away’.

The facts are straightforward:

    The last Alternative Energy Requirement programme was held in late 1998 when contracts were awarded by means of a competition – the weighted average successful bid price was 2.748 p per kilowatt-hour
  • In the meantime numerous international banks have estimated the annual reduction in the cost of wind power to be running at 15%, making wind power one of the cheapest means of producing energy in Ireland
  • On the recommendation of an un-elected quango dominated by wind energy generation interests the Government is being pressurized to abandon competitive allocation of contracts and instead to offer premium fixed priced 15-year contracts of 4.19 p/kilo-watt hour
  • The governments agent for administering the programme is the ESB who will collect the extra cost by a tax on all electricity users
  • It is planned that at least 400 mega watts of wind farms will be financed by this scheme (or approximately 20 – 30 medium sized wind farms)
  • Given that these contracts will be linked to the Consumer Price Index the total cost of this scheme over its 15-year duration will be between IR£991,000,000 and IR£1,067,000,000 (assuming average CPI over the period will be between 2.5% and 3.5%)
  • The actual costs to the wind farm owners will be around IR£500 million. This figure is based on the fact that eirtricity has already financed and constructed wind farms in Ireland without any state support at a cost of just over 3 p/kilo watt-hour.

‘It is quite unbelievable that the State seems determined to give over IR£ 500 million to the Irish Wind Energy Association without ever fully or publicly acknowledging the cost of this policy. They seem to think that because the cost is spread over 15 years people somehow won’t notice – except of course the small number of wind farm owners who will be made into multi-millionaires’ added Dr. O’Connor.

The windpower juggernaut is not without objectors. Many voices have been heard in Clare to halt several attempts to build windfarms. Residents near the Tralee site has complained about noise. Other groups are making themselves heard. An Bord Pleanala has regularly supported appeals against windfarms; after all, their very size and appearance makes them object against themselves. Grounds for refusal, by the Bord and by local planning departments, are for the following grounds:

  • Visual impact - the most common.
  • Reduction in house values.
  • Precedent.
  • Noise.
  • Avian reservations.
More turbines, many more, are being planned next year. A new Sustainable Energy Bill will soon be debated in the Dail. If nothing is done, then the growing windpower trend will be irreversible. I have written to each of the Irish TDs about the matter. But more people must realise the danger of wind energy implementation, and more people must lobby their government representatives; more work must be done to ensure appropriation of SACs and areas of important habitat; more environmental groups must stand their corners to end the madness before it explodes and the Irish uplands are irredeemably lost.

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News

  • Dec 2001 KNOCKASTANNA This beautiful site near Rear Cross, just inside Co Limerick, is threatened: the hill as well as the Curraghafoil community. Hen harriers breed there. Ancient monuments are adjacent. The plan for 6 turbines raised so many concerns from the Planning Dept that the project needs revision. The developers, two men without windfarm experience (Ventus Ltd) are still visiting the site. Objections to Planning Dept, O'Connell St, Limerick. (I can supply more information personally, e mail at end of website.

    Links

    1. Protest Documents

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    3. Letters and Articles

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    5. Protest Groups (Alphabetical)

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    7. Scientific Papers (Authors In Alphabetical Order)

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    9. Wildlife

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    11. Miscellaneous

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    13. Ireland

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    15. Turbine Manufacturers and Windfarm Companies

    16. A mine of technological information, but obviously severely pro-windpower.

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    17. Wind Energy Associations

    18. Interesting propaganda and wind developers' national aims; many have members-only sections!!

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    19. Photographs

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      Contact

      I may be contacted by e mail.


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