One couple’s plans on hold because of wind farms. How many more local businesses are affected? Businesses heavily reliant on tourism are dismayed at proposals to erect giant wind turbines in north Northumberland.
When Nick and Gail Maycock rolled up at the front door of a former pub in Northumberland, they realised straight away it was for them.
They were looking for somewhere to run as a B&B and, with their worldly goods and three dogs packed into their Morris Minor, the sight of The Friendly Hound couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Now, nine years on and £100,000-worth of rebuilding and development later, the couple look out on to the stunning landscape across to Ford Moss Nature Reserve with the threat of staring at 10, 360-foot wind turbines at every turn.
“We don’t want to see our hard work going down the drain,” says Nick. “None of us is opposed to alternative energy sources and we realise we can’t keep on going the way we are, but these developers have no interest in local businesses.
“We’ll be able to see the turbines quite clearly. There are proposals for 10 of them winding across and down to Bowsden.”
Most business people in this beautiful part of north Northumberland cite the perceived inefficiency of wind power and the knock-on effect that wind farms will have on the local economy. The Maycocks have put further construction work on the back burner, for instance. That means the local builder won’t get a new project to start on, nor will the electrician, the plumber and the plasterer. Multiply this scenario and a serious situation could develop in an area where there is little employment.
Gail says: “We’re holding fire about converting the barn at the back for holiday lets. It’s affecting our income and our plans and people’s jobs are directly affected.
“We can be on Holy Island in 20 minutes from here, that’s how close it is, and you’ll even be able to see the turbines clearly from there. We’ve just got to come up with alternatives.
“Government thinking is compartmentalised, it’s not joined up, but they won’t listen to us. There’s a nature reserve just across the fields. People who come and stay with us say how lovely it is and that’s why they come. Would you really want to wake up to one of those in the morning?”
Energy from wind turbines cannot be stored for future use, it must be fed directly into the national grid. This means that wind power is only available to meet demand when wind conditions are right. Basically, no wind means no power, then when speeds of 56mph are felt, the turbines shut themselves down for safety.
Germany and Denmark are years ahead of the UK in wind farm research and development, but both countries have found that the average annual power output – measured against theoretical capacity – is much lower than expected. Germany’s output hovers between 15% and 17% of potential capacity, while Denmark’s hits 20%. UK government figures suggest a potential capacity of 30% before wind turbines are deemed efficient.
According to figures obtained by the Northumberland action group Save Our Unspoilt Landscape (SOUL), this is an almost impossible target to hit – the installation at Crystal Rig, near Duns in the Scottish Borders, averaged under 24% between 2004 and 2006, for example. Dun Law (Soutra) windfarm near Lauder averaged 26.9% (2003-2006), while others, such as those at Burnhope in County Durham achieve figures (2005-2006) of just under 17% output efficiency.
Nick Maycock, a former railways electrical engineer, says: “If a company built a washing machine that was only 30% efficient they would have a problem.
“There are a lot of alternatives to what they’re proposing. The Government should introduce a scheme to change every light bulb in the country to energy-saving, you could save three kilowatts a day doing just that. Multiply that by 20 million homes and you get a lot of zeroes on the end.
“Thirty six per cent of incomes in this area is from jobs directly involved in the tourist industry. You put a wind turbine up and tourists will stop coming. This has probably knocked £50,000 off the value of our home – if we could sell it in the first place.
“There are houses around here that have been on the market for two years; they just can’t sell them.
“A neighbour down the road bought one and the council didn’t even tell him about the proposal – apparently, they’re only obliged to do so if it’s within 250 yards of the property.
“It’s not just us, there are other proposed sites – Berwick will be virtually surrounded by turbines. We’re being hoodwinked.”
By John Lowdon
12 July 2007