Most of us have dreamed of the holy grail of safe and sustainable energy all our lives, particularly since the West continued to sleep even after its 1973 wake-up call, but it is not mere nimbyism that causes concern about wind turbines, as Harry Reid demonstrates (“Windfarm is their neighbour from hell”, The Herald, March 29).
The tragedy in Japan will certainly increase support for wind turbines, so it is vital that we have full and credible data on them. But while acknowledging that many of the same questions apply equally to nuclear projects, and despite all that is published about wind turbines, it is very difficult for non-experts to form a definitive view on, for example:
n Their true costs, including access roads and underground or pylon cabling from site to grid; de-commissioning and land restoration at the end of their economic lives; and the grants and subsidies provided from levies and taxes to landowners and operators.
In addition, there are other factors:
n The need for nuclear or fossil-fuel back-up to cover periods of too weak or too strong wind, about 70% of the time.
n Despite the huge expansion of wind turbines in Denmark or Germany, no power stations have been de-commissioned.
n Fairly short life-spans of only around 20 years.
n The impact on peat-bogs and soil structures of huge quantities of concrete and so on required for access roads and to ensure the stability of these leviathans.
n Possible risks from some of the metal components. Danish research has indicated a significant increase in susceptibility to strokes from the extra noise exposure suffered by those living close to some sites
We need to be convinced that turbines will generate extra electricity commensurate with all the resources used and despite unavoidable negative side-effects; that the net extra energy produced is clean; and that the economic return for the country, not just for landowners and operators, on the full costs of investment, is reasonable.
12 Horseleys Park, St Andrews.
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