Resource Documents: Aesthetics (112 items)
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
Author: Deever, Donald
As a public commentator on this highly disturbing environmental issue, I willingly preface these submitted comments by stating that my personal information should be included in this document for public view. Moreover, it is necessary to state up front that I am strongly opposed to this misguided and destructive project and that I will not cease to play a lawful part in preventing one of the country’s greatest ecological tragedies from occurring. Moreover, I share the objections of every like-minded individual and environmental organization who recognizes the priceless ecological, recreational, historical, cultural, and scenic value of the Wee Thump Joshua Tree and South McCullough wilderness areas, Castle Mountain National Monument, and Mojave National Preserve areas that will be drastically and irrevocably devastated if the proposed industrial wind turbine project by Crescent Peak Renewables is unlawfully allowed to take place in the form of hundreds of industrial wind turbine towers that will stand 400 to 700 feet high.
The subsections below concisely summarize the grounds for my opposition based on harm to biological resources, visual resources, cultural resources, tribal interests, recreational potentials, and human health. It should be noted that these objections stem from far more than personal opinion but represent scholarly research consisting of more than 1,000 pages of online documents on the topic. It should also be noted that while each of the 50 numbered passages in this public comment submission represents an objection to the aforementioned industrial wind turbine project, these numerous objections do not represent the entirety of my objections, which grow with each day that I conduct further research into this highly disturbing plan.
I. Objections Based on the Potential Harms to Irreplaceable Biological Resources
VULNERABILITY OF A VERY SMALL WILDERNESS AREA
AUDUBON IMPORTANT BIRDING AREA
RARE NESTING CAVITIES
DANGEROUS INCREASE IN PREDATORS
DECIMATION OF HERBIVORE POPULATIONS
FEDERAL, STATE, & COUNTY PROTECTED SPECIES
THOUSANDS OF COURT CASES
FEDERALLY-PROTECTED ANIMALS OF SPECIAL INTEREST
COMPLETE REVERSAL OF ROAD POLICIES
GROUND DISTURBING ACTIVITIES
BYE BYE FEDERALLY PROTECTED GILA MONSTER POPULATIONS
WHERE HAVE ALL THE BIRDLIFE GONE?
FRAUDULENT GOLDEN EAGLE DENSITY SURVEY
VIOLATION OF THE TORTOISE RECOVERY PLAN
POLLUTION OF CRITICAL SPRINGS
GOODBYE TO SOLITUDE DEPENDENT SPECIES
LOW FREQUENCY SOUND DAMAGE
BLM DOUBLE-STANDARD ON NOISE DEGRADATION
II. Objections Based on the Potential Harms to Visual Resources
UNFOUNDED ATTEMPT TO REDUCE VISUAL RESOURCE STATUS
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK OF JOSHUA TREES
STUNNING BEAUTY COMMENTS THROUGH THE EYES OF THE WORLD
III. Objections Based on the Potential Harms to Cultural Resources
NO PROPER CULTURAL INVENTORY TAKEN
HISTORIC WAGON TRAIL
IV. Objections Based on the Potential Harms to Tribal Interests
SACRED TRIBAL VALUE
GOOD BYE DARK NIGHT SKIES
V. Objections Based on the Potential Harms to Recreation
WORLDWIDE RECREATIONAL INTEREST COULD BE LOST
VIOLATION OF WILDERNESS MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES
INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINE FIRE HAZARDS
SOUTH MCCULLOUGH WILDERNESS RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
SOLITUDE & WELL-BEING DO NOT COINCIDE WITH TURBINES
PRIVATE RECOGNITION OF RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
IRREPLACEABLE VALUE OF SOLITUDE
VI. Concluding Remarks, Concerns, and Objections
CONTRADICTING EVERYTHING AN EIS STANDS FOR
VIOLATION OF NATIONAL WILDERNESS MANAGEMENT GOALS
GOING BACK ON THE PROMISE TO PROTECT SURROUNDING LANDS
TAKING THE WILDERNESS QUALIFICATION OUT OF THE WILDERNESS
THEFT OF AN ENDURING RESOURCE OF WILDERNESS
BREACH OF PROMISE / BETRAYAL OF PUBLIC TRUST
COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES ARE PROHIBITED
DEFIANCE OF A PRESIDENTIAL AND CONGRESSIONAL ACT
NEVADA’S FIRST WILDERNESS
MORE THAN JUST THE SPIRIT OF SOUTHERN NEVADA
LOOMING GREATEST HUMAN HEALTH HAZARD OF ALL TIME [asbestos]
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
Download original document: “50 Reasons for Opposing the Crescent Peak Wind Project”
Author: False Progress
“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” – Aldo Leopold *
Unsettling numbers of environmentalists fail to see that wind turbines are enemies of nature posing as saviors. Calling them eco-traitors is justified when you study the scope of future plans. Wind in the abstract sense is clean and natural, but the physical manifestation of how people “harvest” wind is big and unnatural by necessity. Wind zealots refuse to see that ruining the countryside with obscenely large towers is a continuum of the “build, build, build!” mentality that’s destroyed nature throughout history. It’s the towering, spinning version of “drill, baby, drill!” and supply-side ideology. Wind energy promoters keep pushing the fable that their emperor isn’t an ungainly giant who cuts down trees, blasts ridges, kills airborne animals and tortures ground-based ones with blight and noise. They claim to be environmentalists but they’re mainly about non-fossil energy and new income streams. Ancient respect for landscapes, including modest human additions, has been replaced with crass talk of “installed capacity” and “market share of renewables.” The presumption that nothing is workable unless someone’s profiting is a big part of the problem. Modern economies thrive on the destruction of nature with various terms to gloss it over, like “clean energy.” The greed may never stop until society crashes like a brakeless wind turbine (rare source of humor on this topic).
The original point of environmentalism was buffering nature from all human intrusions and toxins, not just fighting a specific type of pollution. Wind cheerleaders have decided that giant, mechanical weeds are green because they “must” be green. Many would probably accept dirt bikes and ATVs crawling all over hills and dunes as long as they had electric motors. Today’s “sustainability” is much more about coddling civilization than protecting nature. Some younger people may not understand what “the environment” is beyond AGW warnings they’ve heard since childhood. To become well-rounded environmentalists they should study the history of physical landscape destruction, which began with agriculture, logging & mining but has entered a major new phase with wind power. Nature has a bleak future unless this industry is restrained. It’s a tragic case of blight for naught when you see how ineffectual wind turbines really are. An all-electric economy may never be possible without earthbound nuclear fusion in portable configurations. Armies of ugly wind towers are doing nothing for nature itself.
Landscape-change denial has become as bad as climate-change denial and it’s worse in a hypocritical sense. The Kochs and Pruitts of the world at least aren’t pretending to be green. Large industrial wind turbines are becoming the ugliest evidence of the Anthropocene, creating an unprecedented visual plague with over a quarter million already installed as of 2016 (exact counts of IWTs are elusive; please send a good source if you have one). Benign depictions of wind turbines “dotting” the landscape should be changed to “stabbing” and “blighting.” Nothing else is as tall, widespread, stark and kinetic. As with climate change or cancer in the initial stages, honest discussions of wind power must include its future potential spread, not just what’s known today. The industry seeks to fill up every possible “wind resource zone” and there’s no precedent for machines of this size and quantity, especially in scenic areas. Their closest rivals are offshore oil rigs which are far less numerous, not seen from inland areas, and not designed for permanence. Some future schemes call for nearly 4 million wind turbines but backlash is already strong because people can no longer ignore their presence.
Below is a list of wind industry propaganda tactics, with responses. Quasi-environmentalists keep repeating the same rationalizations for this growing blight on nature. This list may be edited as new spin emerges.
- “We think wind turbines are beautiful.” Why should the alien aesthetics of a subsidy-chasing industry be accepted as the new normal? Natural scenery is integral to quality of life and should never be disrespected. They started building these mutant thistles without a real vote, knowing the impacts would be major. When you call something beautiful you must do it in the context of what it replaced, altered, devalued or ignored. You can’t expect non-androids to accept something absurdly large and kinetically distracting as part of the environment. Rare wind turbines in urban settings can be interesting but most end up in rural areas where they upset the historical sense of place. Some turbine-lovers say power lines are ugly, even though new ones are built for wind sites through remote lands. A number of soulless people have never respected nature’s grandeur without man-made “improvements.” It tends to be a Creationist or anthropocentric engineering mindset. Wind turbines are the biggest structures being forced onto landscapes by the same types who used to interrupt rivers (see below). Where’s the moral consistency? Nothing in nature looks like wind turbines or flashes red lights all night. In the overrun UK, people are rightfully comparing them to War Of The Worlds tripods or marauding Triffids. In rural landscapes it goes against evolution to accept mechanical monsters as normal or desirable.
- “Would you rather live near a coal mine or wind farm?” This is a tiresome diversion, since far more people are dealing with visible wind turbines now, and coal mines are “old school” damage. Mines also tend to be hidden at depth or obscured by ridges, whereas three-armed bandits are deliberately prominent. The effect is profoundly unnatural, with circular motion being a major component. They don’t sway like trees or break like waves, and their noise and red lights grate on nerves. Unlike fossil fuel development, wind projects aren’t limited by geology so they affect districts that never expected to see urban mega-sprawl. Zoning laws are relaxed because they’re “green” and few people predicted their eventual size. Even fracking is much less vertically intrusive and its sites can be restored (water is a separate issue; this isn’t a fossil fuel apologist site). The wind mob knows many people resent their unexpected invasions but they keep rationalizing the spread. Their money/subsidy motivations are covered in depth elsewhere. Purely economic arguments against wind power lack heart.
- “We’ve built silos, water towers and pylons in the countryside for many decades. Wind turbines merely continue that tradition so what’s all the fuss about?” Come on, why pretend there aren’t exponential scale-increases in the wind power domain? Nothing with this uniquely visible combination of size, color and quantity has ever been built outside of urban areas. Claiming that such large structures are nothing new is either dishonest or indicative of lousy scale interpretation. Are they blinded by perspective and see them like this somehow? That’s doubtful. The most likely explanation is apathy about the loss of rural aesthetics, plus standard shill-spin.
- “They will replace fossil fuels and help stop global warming.” This also fails the evidence test, since wind turbines merely stretch fossil fuels by using them to create a different, less efficient form of energy uptake. There are analogies to a hydrogen economy that needs fossil fuels to extract it, so why bother with the middleman. You can’t build or transport such absurdly large machines with electric power; you need heavy mining & smelting equipment and big diesel trucks to move them around. Due to wind’s intermittent nature, wind power can’t work on the grid without a backup energy source, often gas, coal or nuclear. In many cases it’s been shown that CO2 emissions have actually risen as backup plants are installed in new areas to accommodate fickle wind patterns. If you think Germany’s ambitious Energiewende is an economic or popular success, watch this “wind turbine battle” video and research their CO2 balance sheet.
- “We can carefully site wind turbines to minimize their impact.” If this was ever true, why would there be so much resistance to almost every new project? In its 1970s infancy there were few protests because people saw it as a limited scale experiment but the monster escaped its cage and there are only so many places to put them now, with fewer after every new installation. Too much land is already developed and wind power just adds to existing blight. Wind energy advocates think their giant machines can’t be ugly due to a righteous anti-carbon message but landscape blight didn’t vanish as an issue just because global warming took center stage. Turbine apologists say that smokestacks are ugly but wind towers just add blades to the same general structure. The industry talks of making towers even bigger to work in lower wind areas, and concrete may become a means to that end, with a more smokestack-like appearance. Will they keep calling them beautiful? Some wind drones do admit that turbines blight landscapes, and they think offshore wind factories are the answer but it’s not cost effective to install them at distances where they’re invisible from shore. Many people see an unbroken ocean horizon as a basic right. Where else can you look to “infinity” without disruption? Ocean-based turbines also tend to be the largest models and harder to hide. See calculators for visibility vs. height and distance.
- “Wind turbines occupy relatively little acreage.” A popular scientist repeated this deception in the 2014 Cosmos remake. It’s based on the disingenuous claim that tower-bases are the only land & ocean space physically affected by preternaturally large machines. It’s the same rationalization used for ANWR oil drilling, citing “only 2,000” affected acres that would actually sprawl over 1.5 million acres. A direct parallel is Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which claims to need only about 2,000 acres of a 320,000-acre ranch but would actually sprawl over 229,000 acres (see map) and require hypocritical eagle-take permits. Most environmental groups understand the ANWR ruse, so who are they kidding? See the NRDC ANWR land-grab map vs. their wind energy platitudes. The Union of Concerned Scientists also tows that line, apparently unconcerned with scenery. Any industrial complex has a footprint of its total encompassed acreage, including access roads. The whole area becomes aesthetically tainted and cannot be classified as natural anymore. The greater separation of wind towers as heights increase just widens the sprawl zone. The industry also pretends home values aren’t affected when turbines are in the viewshed. A number of people have simply moved away, as they might with any lousy, permanent neighbor. Such large machines are difficult to remove for legal and financial reasons, e.g. Falmouth, MA. Those who claim turbines can be a bridge technology, later dismantled, are not facing facts. Their roads and cement bases may remain for centuries and energy put into building them is wasted now.
- “Rich people just don’t want their view spoiled.” With this canard, the wind mob plays the common man sympathy card while trivializing the importance of scenery to quality of life. It’s also an admission that “wind turbines are beautiful” is a damned lie. When D.J. Trump fought an offshore wind farm near his Aberdeen, Scotland golf course, it was used as dual proof of wealth and climate-denial conspiring against innocent wind machines. In truth, some very humble people live in or travel through scenic areas all the time, and wildlife has no voice when homewreckers arrive. Wind companies often target cash-strapped farmers to bribe them for land-grabs. Some carbon-obsessives think tarnished scenery is our penance for fossil fuel use, but the subsidy-hungry industry pushes the same growthist agenda as the rest of the economy, using green sales pitches for a sense of urgency to ruin landscapes. Maine and Vermont are notable examples with remote mountains in the crosshairs. West Virginia has already been spoiled with eyesores like the Laurel Mountain project, with its additional battery storage blight. North Carolina set the rare precedent of banning all but the smallest mountaintop wind turbines in 2009, but it’s unclear how long it will last. The rural poor get caught in situations where a neighbor is paid to host turbines but one could be 10 feet from their property line and create nothing but noise. A number of wind executives are quite rich but how many would live near their own contraptions? T. Boone Pickens didn’t want turbines on his own land when pushing a Texas wind power scheme. He literally called them ugly. Just as with oil & gas, weak land use regulations in Texas have allowed the rapid spread of wind projects. The conflict between the King and Kenedy ranches was a good example.
- “Cats, cars and windows kill more birds than wind turbines.” People who automatically use that excuse are revealing that bird life is as trivial to them as untrammeled scenery. Also, cars or store windows never claimed to be saving the world. More birds will obviously die as more turbines are built on this finite planet, so the “X kills more than Y” diversion becomes less true with every wind-sword placed in a flyway. There are no house-cats in many areas where wind turbines are installed, and the species of birds are often different, e.g. large raptors that rarely succumb to other animals. Birds tend to be mentioned first in mortality discussions but the plight of bats is worse. Read these articles. Bats can’t escape wind turbine blades via sonar and are actually drawn to wind turbines. Even if they avoid the actual blades, they often die from pressure shocks as they narrowly pass by, and few other machines can duplicate that effect. Why would any “green” technology be killing animals on a regular basis? The wind mob generally ignores such ethical questions (gotta stop carbon by any means, even at the expense of nature itself).
- “People who complain about wind turbine noise are NIMBY liars.” This is a puerile denial of the obvious. You can’t claim that gigantic machines intercepting large volumes of air won’t affect the soundscape! Listen to the air-roar of a mere 20″ box fan, then ask yourself how something vastly larger with a driven generator can be quiet. The noise is complex in its manifestations and topography, yet fundamentally simple; friction and mechanical resonance creates sound. The industry uses the complex aspects to distract from the blatant ones, especially in opinion polls with cherry-picked residents. Infrasound causes some very unpleasant effects and can be hard to measure with standard equipment, but the audible noise is bad enough. It needn’t be super loud, either, just unnatural or jarring, like a dripping faucet that would barely register on a dB meter but can prevent sleep. The typical industry excuse is that they aren’t louder than a refrigerator but who hasn’t been kept awake by a refrigerator in the same room, e.g. a motel? A related, equally dishonest angle is “I usually see wind turbines at a distance and never hear them.” Do they think wind turbines have a magic motility that always makes them far away and quiet to a given observer? Why are setback distances from homes such a big issue?
- “Some right-wing climate deniers are against wind power, therefore that’s everyone’s motive.” This is an association fallacy or hasty generalization. Why assume that landscapes and quiet nights aren’t important to millions of Democrats and other random people? Wind turbines are very large machines built where nobody really expected them. Some things are offensive on a gut level no matter how much green propaganda is thrown around. Wind turbines are an example of something that can be done with applied engineering skills but ought not be, for moral reasons. They aren’t as dangerous as nuclear weapons (another case of hubris gone mad) but they are “blowing up” scenery in many ways. Small-footprint alternatives like rooftop solar should be getting the bulk of subsidies.
- “Wind energy advocates are good environmentalists.” Only because they say so, as they wreck landscapes while yammering about how beautiful or majestic their machines are. Many green groups were adamant about protecting scenery until carbon-dread quashed so many old concerns (typical human overreaction). How many who resent Trump’s attacks on national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante would be silent if those same lands were blighted by wind machines? Same goes for the NODAPL protesters of a barely visible pipeline (water issues aside in this context). We’ve reached a strange point where the visible environment is seen as inconsequential compared to air and water pollution, but the damage is all cumulative. Climate concerns don’t make scenery ruination any less of an issue. The environment is intrinsically linked to its physical horizons all around us. People plant trees and grass in cities because we evolved in nature and don’t want it obliterated by buildings and machines. The industry’s growth is decades past the point where there’s any balance between the scale of wind energy and the need for pleasant scenery. German academics saw this coming in 1998 but landscape apathy prevailed and things are much worse now. Each new “farm” (aka factory) eats into more space that wasn’t tainted by huge machines, unnatural noise and light pollution. When you witness their detachment from nature, it’s clear that many wind engineers, truckers, crane operators and maintenance workers could easily segue into fossil fuel extraction.
“The effects of landscape and visual impact cannot be measured or calculated and mitigation measures are limited. However, experience gained recently suggests that opposition to wind farms is mainly encountered during the planning stage. After commissioning the acceptability is strong.” (source)
The wind business forces itself onto rural communities and expects them to adopt a Stockholm Syndrome mindset. Gag orders are placed on landowners as part of their turbine-hosting agreements (almost everyone has a price) and upbeat polls ask if people favor “renewable energy” without specifying its ugliest component. Articles and forums supporting wind power are constantly ignoring or downplaying its aesthetic damage to scenery and the animals it kills. A truly green business wouldn’t need so many cover stories. They’re filling the fields, mountains and oceans with colossal, noisy, flashing towers and acting like it’s easily ignored (see cognitive dissonance). Engineers are generally not stupid people, so they’re either lying to themselves or have chosen to disrespect nature.
awea.org (money clearly motivates them, just like the fossil fuel business)
wind-works.org (wind advocate since the 70s, pretends the scale hasn’t grown ugly)
windustry.org (lists the downsides but gives them little weight; common shill tactic)
climatecrocks.com (critical comments are drowned out by arrogant, quasi-green talking points)
cleantechnica.com (see no evil, hear no evil; bans anyone who criticizes wind power in a forceful way)
ramblingsdc.net/windenergyopposition.html (rambles about the “benefits” of rural industrialization, claims to respect nature)
thestranger.com/…/rural-people-who-hate-wind-power (insults rural folk, ignores wind energy’s blight & futility; see smug quote)
You can’t reach hardened wind power advocates with aesthetic arguments. Many of them don’t intrinsically respect nature because they’re anthropocentric technophiles and neo-environmentalists. They probably spend far more time looking at computer screens than physical horizons. Maintenance of the technological world and its power grid is their top priority, with nature as a quaint distraction, or a backdrop for extreme sports. The height of wind turbines plays into the bungee-jumping, thrillseeker mindset and they get fascinated with the ability to build something that large. Ancient concern for nature is lost in their awe of Man’s hubris (not unique to wind turbines but they’re top dog now). Windnuts share many traits with the wingnut climate deniers they claim to despise; always pushing for more gigawatts and construction projects. Instead of protecting nature from people, now it’s about sustaining what people built with fossil fuels, using much weaker forms of energy that require vast acreage. If landscapes must be trashed for the “greener good,” they’re fine with it. Way to go, you soulless idiots! Pursuing a nature-wrecking technology in the name of environmentalism is dystopian irony at its worst. Wind power just escalates Man’s historical plundering of nature and the Manifest Destiny mindset. It squanders our last chance to downsize per countless warnings about carrying-capacity overshoot.
Wind turbine manufacturers compete to see who can build the biggest eyesores. Watch some of these videos where they take pride in looming as tall as possible over the countryside. Anything green is long forgotten in those brag-fests. It’s become a bloated excuse for manufacturing, mining, logging, blasting, road building, trucking and crane rigging jobs. That’s what it takes to get huge machines installed in the hundreds of thousands, eventually millions if madness prevails. Too bad they can’t try it on a different planet instead of experimenting on the public and wildlife. Maybe there’s a planet Enercon (emphasis on the con) or a planet Vestas with no natural vistas. There’s also something sinister about the word Iberdrola, like a disease that’s also a corporation. Not only are they in the wind business, they’re vested in a controversial hydroelectric dam in Brazil. Groups like Greenpeace oppose them for that but not for wind power blight. Where’s the moral consistency?
Interactive map of U.S. wind projects. This is a good way to see the total sprawl of these “farms” and debunk minimal land use claims (point 5 above). You can drive for hours in some places and always see turbines. The industry wants to keep making them taller so they’ll work in lower wind areas. Scenery be damned is the general consensus. Be mindful of the 360-degree viewshed, not just their exact placement.
People who oppose the damming of water yet support the mass-disruption of airspace are a hypocritical bunch. You can put large generators at ground level or small ones inside large towers in much greater numbers. A high percentage of existing dams merely hold back water and could be retrofitted to generate electricity, which should be considered instead of more wind projects. Water is 784 times denser than air and creates a lot more power per unit area. Water dams kill swimming animals and wind dams kill flying ones. They both disturb nature in big ways, so if you’re against damming rivers, why make excuses for damming the sky? At least hydro-power makes lakes, which are also formed by natural landslides and lava. Nothing in nature looks like wind machines jutting into the sky. Wind power is a hasty reaction to the fossil fuel dilemma, not our sole choice on this scale (see wind energy vs. oil’s density). The definition of the word clean contains “morally uncontaminated; pure; innocent,” which is the opposite of scenery fouled by wind turbines.
The anti-fracking movie, Promised Land, was originally going to be about wind turbines. They ought to do a sequel since the public is still largely duped by wind hype, thanks to media soft-pedaling. Both industries convert scenic, quiet places into energy factories and know it will disrupt lives, so they use slick propaganda. But fracking is much less visible at a distance than wind power and its lands can be restored, though water issues plague it.
* It’s unlikely that famous conservationists & naturalists like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Ansel Adams, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, et al., would have welcomed this assault on landscapes. As an example, the John Muir Trust (a Scottish legacy charity) is against wind turbines in any sort of wilderness area but they’re fighting a tough battle. In America, Muir founded the Sierra Club, which has sold out to green-tech, dodging the evidence and calling for “appropriately sited” renewable energy projects. Do they think the planet has endless places to hide huge towers, with so many projects already resisted? Even iconic Loch Ness is threatened by wind energy now. It’s discouraging to see modern environmentalists buy into the weak benefits of a bloated, unreliable power source.
In case you think this is a rant with no hope, I’m all for rooftop & parking-lot solar panels or putting them over train tracks and canals. They are much greener than wind monsters because they don’t increase the human footprint, which was never solely about carbon until recent attitudes took hold. Geothermal is another good renewable source, along with small, non-dense wind turbines (under 50 feet tall) and safer forms of nuclear power. The whole centralized model of building “energy farms” and moving electricity over long transmission lines (additional sources of blight) needs to end. Anything truly green should have a minimal footprint. Unless people practice restraint and use more birth control, our long-term existence on this planet isn’t assured by any technology. Fossil fuels built this whole mess and it’s hard to sustain without them. The whole notion that there “must be a solution” is countered by historical evidence of human greed and shortsightedness. The modern energy quagmire vs. the scale of growing wants & needs is unprecedented. Very large machines in the countryside are a new phase of urban sprawl that leaves many of us speechless. Ecocide, Phase 2 is a good term for it. If these were housing developments or freeways, most environmentalists would oppose them for destroying open space! In light of these inexplicable new values, some ecological thinkers have resigned themselves to the continued destruction of nature by old and new technologies. Wind power is actually an old technology, rebooted in the worst way.
It’s easy to find wind energy opposition groups and antidotes to industry propaganda. The media has done a poor job of reporting both sides of the wind energy story but the tide seems to be turning as these machines reach a critical mass. Hopefully there will be a global moratorium on further construction, at least on mountaintops, where wind turbines are the most disrespectful. Subsidies in various nations have already been cut back as the ruse reveals itself but there needs to be an “outrage clause” that stops them for nature’s sake alone. With all the talk of Climate Justice, why not mention Landscape Justice?
Disclaimer: This blog has been referenced on some anti-wind-power sites that promote global warming denial, which is definitely not the angle here. The real solution (if any) to environmental problems is economic growth cessation and a stable population size.
This page will be updated and reworded at random with new information. If you cite it, please post the link instead of a pasted snapshot.
Author: Hemmel, William
Photos by William Hemmel, Aerial Photo NH
Author: Gordon, David
1. In the course of public debate on contentious topics, especially when large sums of money and politics are involved, ‘evidence’ is often collateral damage. Statistics are more often than not used, as the old joke has it, as a drunk uses a lamp-post: for support not for illumination.
2. This paper is the product of frustration and dismay at the misuse of evidence, particularly statistical evidence, by a powerful pro-wind lobby to create a confused, unbalanced and complacent picture of the possible impact of the growth of onshore wind electricity generation in Scotland on tourism and recreation, particularly mountainlinked tourism and recreation. Hyperbole by opponents of wind energy in the face of this well-organised and well-connected lobby is understandable, but equally fails to illuminate.
3. Proponents of wind farms would have us believe that tourism impacts are negligible. Opponents would have us believe that the destruction of tourism in Scotland is nigh. Neither position is at all tenable. The real position is much more subtle and complex. That is an uncomfortable message for all sides in a polarised debate.
4. This paper is an independently-written attempt to assess, as objectively as possible, what is really known about the possible impact of wind farms upon mountain-linked tourism and recreation within Scotland. This is set in the context of tourism in general, not least because there is no data specifically on mountaineering other than that produced by Mountaineering Scotland itself. It is foregrounded by a brief setting out of my personal and Mountaineering Scotland’s positions so that readers can judge whether these have biased my interpretation of the available evidence.
The key findings are:
5. There is no simple answer to the question of whether wind farms affect tourism (or recreation). It depends on
- the characteristics of the proposed development, both individually and as part of regional and national patterns;
- the nature of the local tourism offer and market, and that of competitors; and
- the characteristics of local tourists.
6. The hypothesis that best fits the available, far from perfect, data is that wind farms do have an effect on tourism but the effect is experienced predominantly in areas where large built structures are dissonant with expectations of desired attributes such as wildness or panoramic natural vistas, and where a high proportion of visitors come from the 25% of tourists in Scotland who are particularly drawn by the quality of upland and natural landscapes, with mountaineering visitors prominent amongst these. In much of Scotland, and for most tourists, wind farms are no serious threat to tourism: the nature of the local tourism offer, and good siting of wind farms, mean they can co-exist.
7. The main adverse effect of wind farms on tourism, thus far, is displacement within Scotland from areas perceived as ‘spoilt’ to areas seen as still retaining the desired sense of naturalness. The GCU Moffat Centre study, relied upon by developers and the Scottish Government, estimated the likely level of tourism displacement across Scotland by wind farms to be around 1-2%. The estimates in the present paper range up to 5%. This difference is modest given the five-fold increase in onshore wind farm capacity in Scotland between the data points for the two studies (2007 & 2015).
8. Tourism in Scotland is not thriving, with standard indicators of tourism volume in 2016, the latest available consistent data, still below pre-2008 levels. Positive media coverage of a ‘thriving’ tourism sector, typically based on statistically selective press releases, is seldom supported by the full figures. In a competitive world, it is foolish to put at risk any segment of Scotland’s tourism market.
9. Five per cent of Scottish tourism spend would be £250m. This is well within the range of fluctuation seen in national tourist spend from year to year and therefore undetectable, even if it was all lost to Scotland and not simply displaced within Scotland. Since the true figure could well be smaller, attempting to find evidence in national or regional tourism statistics of the effect of any particular change is almost certainly futile. It is statistically illiterate to think the lack of detection of a modest effect in volatile regional and national tourism statistics is evidence of no effect.
10. But any effect of wind farms will be much less visible in routine statistics because the income is not lost to the national tourism economy but displaced and relocated within Scotland. Even the lowest level estimated – 1% or £35m – would have a marked impact if concentrated in a limited number of places. It is still doubtful if such an effect could be detected in routine statistics since much tourism economic activity does not feature in statistics (e.g. many tourism business are below the VAT registration level) and it is such activity that might be most likely to be affected by a local drop in visitors.
11. BiGGAR Economics has attempted to look at impact in the vicinity of a general cohort of wind farms and has found no effect. Setting aside several methodological concerns about this study, the sample included only one wind farm in an area where a tourism effect would be predicted based on the conclusions of the present paper. The postconstruction outcome data for this wind farm was confounded by continuing wind farm construction locally, making it impossible to separate any tourism effect from the effect of construction worker accommodation and expenditure.
12. The evidence on wind farms and tourism in Scotland relates to the present pattern of development consented under a rigorous planning system. Mountaineering Scotland does not agree with all planning decisions, but the process is certainly exacting. This makes it difficult to assess impact on mountaineering or wild land tourism empirically because few wind farms that might be expected to have an adverse effect have been consented and most are not yet built. Insofar as Mountaineering Scotland objections can be used to identify planning applications in areas important for mountaineering and related tourism, there have been only eight wind farm consents in such areas and only two were operational by 2016. When wind farms are refused planning permission in mountain or wild land areas the reasons given are typically landscape and visual, but an unrecognised side-effect has been to limit potential for tourism impacts.
13. Despite the clearly inadequate nature of the present evidence base on wind farms and tourism, the Scottish Government remains content with reviews of old research with almost no primary research later than 2008, despite the substantially changed context. That the government and its agencies have little interest in commissioning research to better define and understand the interaction between specific segments of the tourism market and wind farms is to be regretted and serves the public interest poorly.
14. Strategic and local planning decisions on the extent and pattern of wind farm development in Scotland should take better account of the potential for adverse impact in areas important for landscape-dependent tourism, and safeguard sufficient such areas in each part of Scotland. It is not enough to protect only those landscapes within the small number of National Parks and National Scenic Areas.
Published by Mountaineering Scotland, November 2017
Download original document: “Wind farms and tourism in Scotland: A review with a focus on mountaineering and landscape”