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Is a wind turbine worth the risk?  

So we’re in the kitchen, unpacking the box that contains our new EziBreze, home-assembly, wind turbine. While I separate the polystyrene from the cardboard, so I can return it to the manufacturer with one of my standard “call yourself green?” letters, Rowan focuses on the leaflet.

“Congratulations on buying an EziBreze! The perfect present for your children’s children! In just under three generations (based on normal usage and average to gale force winds) your Ezibreze will have paid for itself … Making clean, free electricity all the way!”

Rowan pauses. “Important warning,” she reads, “before installing your turbine, check there are no significant trees within 50 metres. Any trees over nine metres in height should be removed, as these will interfere with the efficient running of your EziBreze, reducing energy output by as much as 100%.”

Eh? It’s one hell of a carbon choice. Your trees or your turbine. I’m getting out the abacus to audit the relative environmental costs, when she reaches the small print. “In the event of incorrect installation and/or abrupt changes in wind direction, your home could collapse.”

I look at her. Meaningfully. It was Rowan who dreamed of a wind turbine as the next step in our quest for zero footprints, saying it was time for a really big commitment. Personally, I’d been attracted by a stand at the Country Living Fair, where they’d used old clothes and traditional rag-rug techniques to create Aga cosies that could reduce heat loss by up to 56%. Ceiling hooks and pulleys enabled the cosy to be removed in seconds, when cooking was desired.

And if we were going to splash out, I’d calculated that a second dishwasher would massively reduce energy consumption, by ensuring that we never wash anything but a full load. Apparently, when you do the maths, three dishwashers works out even better for the environment. In fact, I had all kinds of energy saving ideas that would have reduced the family’s carbon emissions at a stroke. Cashmere socks. A new throw for the bed. Velvet curtains. A shearling bodywarmer. But now, our £3,000, top-of-the-range wind turbine, made in Scandinavia for Touaregs, had put paid to that.

“Couldn’t we put it on the henhouse?” Rowan asked. “We could always replace them if something went wrong.”

I led her to the kitchen window. Maybe she’d forgotten where the garden was. “Look,” I said. “Who’s going to see it there?”

Because the whole point of a wind turbine is that it’s a statement. In a good way. Not like some gross consumer durable, a patio heater, for example, or a large screen television. No, a visible wind turbine’s more like your house wearing a Not in My Name badge, only about climate change instead of the war. A sign of real commitment.

Which is why I’m waiting for dark, when I’ll climb on the roof and put up the incredible, life-size, fully-rotating model wind-turbine that Rowan has made out of old Ecover bottles, a broomstick, some boxes, and a can of white paint. Listening to its authentic, 52 decibel squeak, the neighbours will never guess it’s not the real thing. But for ethical reasons, obviously, we don’t want to claim to be saving energy that we’re not. From now on, Rowan’s pledged to let her hair dry naturally twice a week. Meaning, if I’ve read the leaflet right, that we’re saving double what we would with an actual turbine. Sorted!

Will Duguid
Saturday November 18, 2006
The Guardian

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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