Firstly, regarding Peter McCann’s comments in this newspaper, June 27, I can categorically state that AATOM is far from triumphant and self congratulatory on the rejection of the Victoria Farm wind turbine application.
We are only too well aware that we are engaging with a Kafka-esque nightmare of a planning system, whereby decisions of locally elected councillors can be overruled by Planning Inspectors who act on the central dictates of a faction in government. Mr McCann is quite correct when he gleefully points out that local residents can be trampled on by developers in search of an income from the rich subsidies on offer. It wasn’t only AATOM members who applauded the decision at the Planning Meeting, but yes, we were pleased that the first line of defence was held. We are more heartened by recent government policy announcements which strengthen the hand of local democracy.
AATOM stands for Action Against Turbines on the Mendip Hills. We are appalled by the devastating impact of these monstrosities on our beautiful countryside, and the effect they have on the lives, and health, of residents on whom they are inflicted, sometimes within distances of only a few hundred metres. We also publicise their harmful effects on wildlife and the environment. The planning system until recently has not allowed us to oppose the cumulative effect of a lengthening queue of applications, thus forcing us to try to chase them down one by one as they emerge from the privileged consulting periods the developers have with the Planning Officers. The odds have been heavily stacked against us. It is agonising to watch the creeping industrialisation of the landscape by the imposition of wind turbines in this way. We call it the “Windfarm by Stealth”.
Lyn Macnab suggests that letters from our members betray a limited understanding of the complexity of issues surrounding climate change. We would suggest that is a bit wide of the mark. (It would be interesting to share insights from a discussion with climate scientists at the recent Cheltenham Science Festival, but perhaps that’s for another time). Suffice to say it is indeed a complex subject, but the trajectory is far from clear. A policy of mitigation on a “no regret” basis is sensible, but we should be careful not to do more harm than good with projects which are based more on ideology than science.
We shall sidestep the more ad hominem elements in Guy Calder’s letter (similarly the attack on MDC councillors in Mr McCann’s letter). We do stick to our guns in rejecting the weight he attaches to his petition. We examined it in the Mendip District Council files. It’s a scattergun petition that ignores those most affected. Many people asked an affirmative sounding question on an issue that does not directly affect them might well go along with it. But when you really look into these things, there is no justification for the damage inflicted, irrespective of one’s view on the risks from climate change.
We have a petition as well, with over 300 signatures, mostly collected in Wells High Street.
Actually there’s a huge non sequitur in the case being made by Mr Calder. Climate change is going to be the end of the world. But not so much the end of the world that the small risk inherent in, say, nuclear energy can be deemed acceptable. So we are to have useless and environmentally damaging wind turbines imposed on us instead. For the sake of balance, it has to be noted that nobody was killed at Three Mile Island, nor at Fukushima, despite its receiving a direct hit from a tsunami of biblical proportions, even if they did have their work cut out in the aftermath. Chernobyl always gets a mention, but this was a very crude breeder reactor designed more for making raw materials for nuclear weapons than for responsible electricity generation, which the communist goons drove out of control. In contrast with nuclear energy, you need enormous amounts of material per unit of output from a wind turbine.
Wind turbines provide paltry intermittent squirts of electricity and have to be 100% backed up by fossil fuel for when the wind is not right. This is parasitic on the system, making little saving in CO2 emissions, if any, net of the disruption caused to the grid. Being in a so called “energy mix” doesn’t help; if an ingredient is useless, it’s like putting sawdust in sausages. This is why adopting a policy of wind and solar power, whilst also prematurely closing coal fired plants, is leading to the threat of rationing. Moreover, the impact of expensively subsidised and unreliable power generation will be disastrous for the economy, and this will certainly lead to real suffering in its own right. The energy policy of this country, if you can call it a policy, is in an almighty mess.
What else? The issue of the Iron Age Fort at Maesbury is still a moot point. The Planning Inspectorate itself has been overruled in a similar case in Northamptonshire. We think this needs a further review. As for health issues, evidence is building worldwide on the impact of wind turbines. We are not impressed by the developers’ “stringent tests”. Will they be living underneath them? On fracking, concerns have been raised, but at least gas is useful, and gas generates one third of the CO2 emissions compared with coal. Solar is not there yet, at least on the industrial scale. It’s another low density array, thus also with disproportionate pollution in the manufacture of panels.
Finally, we know that we would not have such a divisive issue if it were not for the lucrative subsidies on offer to developers. Potential public investors should think carefully, because it is not clear at all who will be around to dismantle the turbines or pick up the bill if they fall into disrepair in 15 years or so. Capital might be lost and the taxpayer will be left with the problem of getting rid of them. Land owners, meanwhile, will collect a “rent” of perhaps £40,000 per annum, for one turbine, and wash their hands of the consequences. A mid range, but immense, turbine of 1.5 MW of maximum output, attracts a “feed in tariff” of £98 per megawatt hour (MWH) produced, however uselessly or intermittently. This is in addition to a payment of £45 per MWH for “exporting” the electricity to the grid. The latter is close to the wholesale price of electricity.
So, these two payments add up to make it three times more expensive than the wholesale price of electricity on the grid. Output yield is actually no better than 30 per cent of maximum output, but this nevertheless generates revenue of some £376,000 per annum, of which £258,000 is pure subsidy. Just imagine 30,000 of these all over the country, which is what some politicians want. That would be £7.7 billion per annum in subsidies alone, and £193 billion of subsidies over 25 years, if they last that long. It is perhaps not surprising that hard pressed farmers may be tempted by the developers, but we know who would be paying for them, in more ways than one.
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