Image credit: Daniel Morris, used under Creative Commons license.
From spiritual opposition to Cape Wind to an Earth First! anti-wind protest in Maine
, there are plenty of groups out there opposing specific wind projects. And that's as it should be. Without careful siting and rigorous oversight, poorly planned wind farms can cause a lot of harm. But, argues George Monbiot over at The Guardian, why do opponents of wind projects have to harm their cause by talking complete "gibberish"?
Responding to a column over at The Guardian by Simon Jenkins on the benefits of NIMBYism, George Monbiot argues that the anti-wind lobby is relying on severely flawed arguments and cherry-picked statistics to make outlandish claims about the ineffectiveness of wind. Prime among these misrepresentations, he claims, is the notion that Government is supporting wind energy despite huge expenses and unproven effectiveness:
As the government's Committee on Climate Change reports, large onshore windfarms are "already close to competitive" with burning natural gas, and are likely to get there by 2020. They are the cheapest renewable sources in this country by a long way. Offshore wind costs roughly twice as much, and its costs have been escalating. After attacking the high cost of wind power, Jenkins argued that we should instead invest in "sun and waves". The committee shows that while the expected price of electricity from onshore wind in 2030 is between 7 and 8.5 pence per kilowatt hour, solar power is expected to come in at between 11 and 25p, and wave between 15 and 31p.
Being the newly enthusiastic advocate for nuclear that he is, Monbiot does claim that nuclear is even cheaper than wind—but to advocate solar over wind due to cost concerns is, he says, hard to justify. He also rips into claims that the carbon cost of wind turbines makes them unlikely to ever offer real environmental benefits—citing research (and offering sources) that wind turbines save more emissions than it takes to build them in just 12 months.
Pylons: The Real Impact of Increased Wind Power
There is, however, an issue raised by anti-wind groups that Monbiot does think needs addressing, and urgently. As the UK makes plans to massively ramp up its renewable energy capacity, the Government is proposing overland powerlines due to cost issues even though underground cables are also feasible. This, says Monbiot, could provide an immense rallying cry for anti-wind lobby groups—yet environmentalists seem unprepared for the debate that is about to be unleashed:
This is about to become a national struggle, in which opponents of the new pylons will be cast as heroes. Promising direct action, reminding us of the great battles against the reservoirs supplying England, those who marched against the new lines in Wales last week will put us, unless we act quickly, in a dangerous position. Green activists will be outflanked by green activism. The same battle will then be fought all over the United Kingdom, wherever a new power line is planned.
There is, says Monbiot, only one sensible option for the green movement—stand against overhead pylons, even if that means some turbines will not get built. Presumably that goes even for pylons that get a fancy make-over too.