About 8 miles from my home in rural Suffolk (in the East of England) two wind turbines have recently been erected and will soon be producing electricity. These are the first large ones in this area, though there are several in Norfolk, as well as many more being put up off the coast. As there is a continuing debate around the benefits (or otherwise) of this technology, here are just a few comments:
These turbines are big – 130m to the blade tip, and definitely dominate the local landscape. In the relatively flat East Anglian landscape, there has been concern that these tall structures would have a wide visual impact. However, whilst they appear huge up close (I drove right up to the base of one tower) to my mind, as soon as you get a couple of miles away the impact is muted. The countryside here is not billiard-table flat like parts of the nearby fens. There are undulations in the landscape, trees and small woods which block the view. Only a few miles south is the (much taller) Mendlesham TV mast which we have all become used to. Opposition has been somewhat tempered by the fact that the turbines have been sited on an industrial site, close to a busy main road, which hopefully relieves some concerns about the noise impact.
As I follow the debate around wind power, both nationally and locally (we have been dealing with a series of applications in my own village) I find the debate increasingly polarised: To the “antis” wind farms are a blot on the landscape, a blight on property prices, a source of visual and noise pollution and even the cause of illness. Above all, they are inefficient, don’t actually reduce CO2 emissions, and are a waste of money. In contrast, those in favour see them as a source of clean, green energy and part of the solution to the looming problem of climate change.
For what it’s worth, I see some merit in both arguments, but am generally in favour of them, with the caveat that I would like to see a statutory distance between a wind farm and residential dwellings. I don’t think they are visually intrusive at a distance – in fact to me they look rather elegant. Neither are they as useless as protestors claim – any form of electricity generation is substantially less than 100% efficient, and at least in the case of wind we are not using up a finite resource and producing a pollutant, nor are we leaving a toxic legacy for many generations to come, as with nuclear. However, since this blog is looking at these issues from the perspective of Christian faith, where do we stand? What wisdom can we bring to the situation? One area where perhaps we can help is in bringing a little peace into the debate. Discussions on this issue can be fractious and ill-tempered rather than polite and reasoned. One campaigner described the response to an application as “hate-filled hysteria” Let’s help here at least with salt and light where we can.
A final thought – yesterday a planning application in Devon, for the Totnes community wind farm, was turned down by the local planning authority. One reason given was because it would cause a “loss in amenity” to a local listed building – the church.