Beyond the Riverbank's full website: www.beyondtheriverbank.com

Friday, 6 September 2013

Stop Langford Wind Farm? Give it a rest!


There is nothing like a good, long walk to clear the mind and raise the spirits. Ellie and Sky joined me for a stroll up to Langford water tower, via the brand new wind farm currently in the process of being constructed. I apologise for the lack of focus on wildlife in this blog, but this is an environmental subject that is close to home, and with the extreme fuss made over the wind farm, with numerous 'Stop Langford Wind Farm' posters littering our streets, it got me thinking.

Progress

Clearly, all of the evidence is in favour of the wind turbines being built. Enough energy will be produced to power over 11,000 homes, preventing the release of between 18,000 and 43,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. It is a direction the world needs to take.

Turbine in the field
They also produce near to no noise, leaving the visual impact as the only impact that the people of Langford are so strongly opposed to. Which infuriates me for a number of reasons.

Close-up

Firstly, I personally like their appearance. But then that is personal preference and I can accept that some people may disagree. Some people like pugs, I think they are ugly. But, I wonder why people go to the extent of putting up posters and threatening to move homes because wind turbines are being added to an already polluted and fragmented landscape. I find it difficult to understand that they can put up with all of these, but can not bear the sight of a clean looking wind turbine, a symbol of greener energy and a more sustainable future.

Dissecting our landscape with wires

Telegraph poles and cables run across our vast expanses of green rolling countryside. But then we need these to enable tele-communication and transport electricity. They provide a benefit to us, and we accept them as necessary. 

Light pollution and the turbine

I have never heard anyone who lives in Langford complain about the ridiculously bright lights of the larger town of Biggleswade and the A1. The lights are necessary to enable us to see clearly at night. Yet they are a form of pollution. These street lamps and shop windows violate the light produced by stars that has traveled for millions of years to reach the Earth, they pollute our skyline with reds and yellows. But we accept them around here, because they are part of modern society. 

Buzzard in the Sun (m)
During the walk, I stop and listen to the sound of the skylark, rising high above our fields. Beautiful. My soul is immediately lifted by its upbeat and cheery sound. I am alerted to the buzzard soaring high above by its mewing call, as it circles around the sun. But, if I stop and listen to everything, I hear the not-so-distant hum of cars, lorries, motorbikes and vans on the A1. A constantly subtle barrage of noise that ruins the peace of our countryside. People are only deaf to the noise because of its constancy. Stop and listen. When was the last time you heard total, natural silence, coupled only with the very sound of nature?

A1 ugly

And then the electricity pylons. Only an architect could like an electricity pylon. They are attractive in their lines and symmetry, but are essentially huge metal towers with horrendously long cables running between them. Disgusting.

East Coast rattler

And what is this? A roaring, rattling lump of metal, fueled by electricity tearing through the countryside, no more than 50 metres from peoples homes in Langford. Stop the trains? No, because the trains serve them a direct purpose. They can make do with the trains because the trains get them from Biggleswade to London and back for about £20.



Langford behind the turbines

But these wind turbines are disgusting. The scourge of our landscape. I will consider selling my life-long family home because every time I look out across the farmers fields that have replaced our ancient woodland, every time I look over the high-speed rattling and roaring railway, through the telephone wires and electricity cables running across the land, I see a few large, tall, rather amazingly designed wind turbines harnessing the energy of the wind for electricity. These hideous constructions are built on our doorstep, as the human race attempts to fight the battle against depleting reserves of non-renewable fuel sources so that we can have the railway we want, the lights on at night, and boil the kettle to sit down and watch Strictly Come Dancing at the weekend with a nice cup of tea.

Give me a break. Stop being so selfish, and start opening your mind to the long-term future of our planet. Maybe it is a generation problem, and it is simply those that do not like change, those that accept the negative changes that have already occurred, and think that any more changes to 'their' landscape should not happen. This wind farm is a positive change for sustainability and the environment. They have to go somewhere, and that somewhere may change the view you wake up to in the morning.

Talking of which, I thoroughly look forward to sitting down with a nice cup of tea, and popping a bit of Strictly on the box.

And to make up for the lack of wildlife, here is a photo from my moths at night project I have been working on.

Capturing the flight of moths at night

Thank you for reading ya'll !

16 comments:

  1. Interesting points Tom. There is a place for everything and we so need renewable energy. Coal pits, quarries, clay mines, nuclear power stations along the coast all make a terrible mess of the environment so wind farms are no different in this way.
    I think we need to look at more appropriate places to put them though. The Isle of Skye is just so beautiful, as is the rest of Scotland, yet it has the potential of producing so much renewable energy through wind farms-a dilemma indeed. Is it really the only place available? What about our cities and towns?
    I'd really like to see a nice big wind farm outside the houses of parliament and all across London as an example of supporting wind farms! Do you think there would be protests and consternation? Where were the wind turbines for the Olympic Games?
    It's all about money and consumerism sadly and not about protecting our environment.
    Why aren't all new houses built with solar panels and rain water harvesting to save our natural resources?
    If someone had the stupid idea (and lets face it, it would be the greedy and incompetent Torbay Council) to put a wind farm on Berry Head-I'd be the first with my protest poster!

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    1. There definitely needs to be a balance, and in a place already ruined with the likes of cables, roads, fumes and railways I think they are a welcome sight and addition. Obviously it is a highly controversial issue, with plenty of material to debate (particularly about their effectiveness), I would not want our entire countryside and coasts used for construction of wind turbines, and I totally agree with your points about money and consumerism. A lot of it is just to satisfy the needs of thoughtless targets to make the government appear greener and more sustainable. If the wind was efficient enough, I would love to see turbines in and around cities where appropriate!! Roadside turbines would be nice!

      Thank you for the comments :)

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  2. Some great points, power lines and pylons are far more of an eye-sore in my opinion. We recently had a wind farm built off our coast, which I didn't have anything against, but many did. There are always so many pros and cons to wind farms but it is a dead cert that we need renewable energy! Lots of birders don't agree with them around me because they insist that they fly into them. I don't know the figures but I should imagine that it isn't a large number?!

    As always you have produced a thought provoking post with some fantastic images :)

    Lou x

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    1. Thank you Lou!

      Definitely controversial. As far as I am aware, wind turbines do cause the odd death by collision but the numbers are not huge and are deemed insignificant by ecological surveys. But, shall we compare that to roadkill and ban cars from driving on roads that fragment our countryside?

      Tom x

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  3. Thanks Tom for some great photographs and comments. I have posted a link to your blog to members of Gamlingay Environmental Action Group. As you probably know, Gamlingay, about 6 miles from Langford, build its own community wind turbine this year. Not all rural communities are opposed to wind generation!

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    1. Thank you Brycchan, I am aware of your project, and think it is a fantastic idea! Good work, and I wish you the best of luck for the future! Did you receive much opposition to the project?

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  4. Perhaps I could run through the points from top to bottom.

    I don't know if you are aware of that the neodymium which is used in vast quantities for the magnets in turbine generators is mined by the 'open cast' method in China. The lake of toxic waste and the bellowing toxic CO2 rich smoke fills the horizon around the refinery. I think that you are just talking about geographical CO2 displacement. Check out http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html for the whole story.

    But anyway, due to the intermittency of wind power, we need back up generators of the same capacity to be built for when the wind doesn't blow. This back up capacity is increasingly banks of dirty diesel generators whose owners are paid vast sums to keep them 'ready'.

    As far as the noise goes, just come back in a year of operation and ask the neighbours. Better still go to Cotton End wind farm near Gravely at the end of a warm summer day when the effect of temperature inversion will give your ears a treat.

    I admit that some people like the appearance and some don't, but if they are of no purpose then they are pointless. For more on that read on. By the way, electricity pylons are not pretty but they have the advantage that they don't move. Animals, including us, are programmed to notice movement because its either food or a predator.

    Regarding birds, have a look at youtube and see the birds cut in half and the bats dying from barotrauma. That's when the low pressure behind the turbine blades forces the bats lungs to burst and rupture. One pup being born per year means rapid decimation of local bat colonies. It may not be an issue at Langford but it is on a lot of sites and actually it is illegal to erect a device when it is reasonable to expect it to cause bat deaths.

    So, are they worth it? Well the 11,000 homes quoted may be achievable in year one, maybe not and it depends what they quoted as 'load capacity'. Because the wind doesn't blow at all sometimes, or it's too strong, the turbine only produces about a quarter of its capacity over the year. Wind developers often use 27% but that isn't achievable in Bedfordshire. The average for the whole of the UK is 24% in the first year (Renewable Energy Foundation). Why the first year? Because after that things go rapidly downhill. The generated power decreases by about 1% per annum until by year 17 it is down to just 9% or about 3,700 homes. All due to pitting of the turbine blades and wear and tear.

    The cost to you is about an extra £40 per megawatt hour over the normal wholesale price. If you take the whole life CO2 costs of construction and installation and the CO2 produced by the essential backup, you won't save the planet either. So who gains? Well as consumers and those living with them, we don't for sure but the developer surely does. He will make millions.

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    1. Thank you, some very interesting and valid points well put forward there Peter! I will have a proper read of the articles and get back to them when I have a bit of time. Would you recommend abandoning all efforts to build wind turbines and favour the continued use of drilling and mining for oil?

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    2. The car wasn't the most economic, environmentally friendly or best looking thing when first invented. but all has improved over the years it just takes time and investment. I'm sure in years to come the turbines will become smaller and more efficient as technology evolves. it has to start somewhere.....

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  5. Well Tom you have certainly started a debate and this can only make us all more aware of the pros and cons for or against these ugly monstrosity's, littered around England's green and pleasant land, look forward to reading the response generated

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  6. Such a nice post ! This is a positive change for sustainability of our environment. And it is a solution to our problem about the pollution.

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