In our work we regularly come up against a number of misconceptions about wind turbines. Here are some of the most common:
Wind energy needs back up to work:
All forms of power need back up. A wide and diverse portfolio of energy generation is essential. One of the major benefits of wind energy is that it allows for less fossil fuels to be used to generate electricity and therefore for carbon emissions to be reduced. Government policy is to encourage and increase the use of wind turbines as a power source; in conjunction with wave power, tidal power, solar power, biofuels etc. It is in this manner that a functioning National Grid is based. No single source of energy, whether renewable or not, can be relied upon to power a country.
Wind farms kill birds:
Bird population distribution, species and migration routes are all taken into consideration during the planning process. If a turbine site would interfere with bird populations it would not be possible to obtain planning permission. The RSPB released an information leaflet in 2004 entitled ‘Wind Farms and Birds’ which stated that “in the UK we have not so far witnessed any major adverse effects on birds associated with wind farms”.
Wind turbines are inefficient:
Turbines produce electricity 70-85% of the time on average dependent on wind speed. Over the course of a year the average turbine generates 30-40% of its theoretical maximum output, known as it’s ‘load factor’. Traditional power stations have a ‘load factor’ of less than 50%. Most of the energy produced by a traditional power plant is lost as heat. ‘Load factor’ is taken into account when the site for a wind turbine is chosen. Turbines are placed in areas where the average wind speed is sufficient to generate a viable amount of electricity.
Wind energy is unfairly subsidised:
Subsidy is necessary due to the fledging nature of wind turbine technology. The high start up costs involved mean that without subsidy the energy potential of Scottish wind would remain untapped. It is Government policy to incentivise renewable forms of energy. This is necessary for a variety of reasons; to ensure the country’s energy security, to decrease reliance on increasingly scarce fossil fuels and the rocketing prices they are subject to, and achieving the carbon emission reduction targets that have been set at both a national and international level. It is also worth noting that many other forms of energy are subsidised. Power plants receive massive state funding at the construction stage. For nuclear power stations decommissioning and the storage and disposal of nuclear waste materials are all paid for by the taxpayer.
Tens of thousands of wind turbines will be cluttering the British countryside:
Obtaining planning permission for wind turbines is a lengthy, involved, and difficult process. Many factors must be taken into account; environmental and visual impact surveys, ecological surveys, shadow flicker, decommissioning and dismantling procedure. Much of the country is entirely off limits to turbines; National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, areas surrounding airfields or military installations, Sites of Specific Scientific Interest, Forestry Commission Land, World Heritage Sites, Conservation Areas etc. A recent study has found that the UK has only one wind turbine per 100 square kilometres. This is in comparison to Denmark which has 10.85 turbines per 100 square kilometres, Germany with 5.95, The Netherlands has 5.54, Spain has 3.39.
Wind power is expensive:
The cost of generating electricity from wind has fallen as capacity rises. As capacity continues to rise the price will continue to fall. It is a free and abundant source of energy. Once a wind turbine is in place there are no costs in terms of fuel, waste etc. Wind energy is not subject to market forces in the same manner that oil, gas, coal or biofuels are. In terms of cost wind is already competitive with new coal and cheaper than nuclear power.
Wind turbines damage tourism:
The UK’s first commercial windfarm at Delabole received 350,000 visitors in its first ten years of operation. Whitelee Wind Farm in Lanarkshire, Europe’s largest wind farm boasts its own visitors centre and is a tourist attraction in its own right. The Scottish Government conducted a survey in 2008 entitled ‘Economic Impacts of Wind Farms on Scottish Tourism’ which found that three quarters of the surveyed tourists felt that wind turbines had a positive or neutral effect on the landscape. 97% said that wind turbines would have no impact on their decision to visit Scotland again.
Wind turbines harm property prices:
Edinburgh Solicitors Property Centre (ESPC) conducted research in 2009 focusing on sales of property in proximity to the Crystal Rig wind farm in the Scottish Borders. This research found no evidence of a negative impact on property value. Prices in the town of Dunbar had risen from below to above the regional average over the past four years – during the time in which the wind farm was constructed. Property price inflation in Dunbar has continued to exceed that achieved across East Lothian.
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