After lying almost unchanged for thousands of years, Yorkshire’s hills and dales are set to be transformed with the construction of hundreds of wind turbines. While this revolution in the countryside will bring many jobs, and help Britain to tackle its chronic concerns over energy supply, it is right to pause and think about the long-term impact it will have on local communities.
It is impossible not to feel sympathy for the towns and villages which will experience the effect of the construction of wind farms. Historic landscapes face being altered and, with 141 turbines to be added to the existing 108, and plans in the pipeline for another 100-plus, the technology is being adopted en masse despite lingering questions over its efficiency.
These questions increased when Britain suffered a spell of extreme cold and high pressure at the start of last year and many turbine blades ground to a halt. Nationwide they operated at an average of just 16 per cent capacity. Clearly more scientific work must be carried out to establish how onshore wind farms can stand up to the worst weather. This is necessary because there are few alternatives and we must not become even more reliant on foreign nations to help us meet our energy needs, particularly when the forever unstable Russia exerts such influence in the market.
One area where there is more reason to be hopeful, however, is in offshore wind energy production, where Yorkshire will soon be a world leader. The Humber estuary development, backed by the Government and manufacturer Siemens, will bring jobs and investment to an area in desperate need of industrial renewal. It is expected to demonstrate that green power can be produced on a large scale without damaging nearby communities.
Britain’s decision to chase the wind farm dream, and the impact of this on Yorkshire, reflects the fact that our country is being held over a barrel by European Union targets on the production of renewable energy.
Once again, communities here risk being transformed by decisions made hundreds of miles away in Brussels. It is right to pursue cleaner technologies, but it must not be at the expense of this region’s scenery and way of life.