Wind turbines are becoming very fashionable as politicians see a new bandwagon to jump onto. The current trend is to claim that the fitting of a wind turbine to every building, public or private, will produce a profit for the owner. This is a simplistic and misleading claim because the generating ability of any wind turbine will depend on the location and the typical weather conditions in the area. There is also mounting evidence that the siting of many turbines in any area will change the local wind patterns. Where the density of wind turbines is high, one turbine may steal the wind from another.
Like much of the “Green” propaganda, inaccurate claims risk eventually destroying the sound arguments for considering ways to reduce our demand for non-renewable resources.
In the meantime it will be an opportunity for vendors to market products that they might otherwise be unable to sell, at a profit margin that would not normally be possible.
An example of this in the past has been of companies claiming that their washing power was “green” because it did not contain a list of chemicals that were harmful to the environment. The claim was used to increase sales against competitors and to justify higher prices. Unfortunately, none of the harmful chemicals had ever been present in washing powder, the claims being a hoax for market advantage.
Wind turbine vendors are now rushing to claim that their products provide a new income, because they will reduce the amount of electricity bought from the public generating company, and that they will produce surplus electricity that will be sold to the public generator.
What they fail to point out is the annual cost of their products – as amortized capital cost and continuing costs for maintenance and repairs. When these costs are carefully calculated, current products represent a net additional cost to the owner, unless energy prices from public generating companies very significantly increase.
A common claim is that a particular product will show a profit over twelve years, when saved and sold electricity is set against the original purchase price of the generator. The claim fails to point out that the product has a life of only seven years and that there will be a number of other costs incurred during installation and further cost introduced by maintenance costs during the seven year designed life of the product.
The Broads is an area where a series of lakes, mostly created by Medieval peat digging to produce fuel for the fires of Norwich (and therefore a form of both pollution and use of non-renewable/slow-renewable resources), are connected together by a network of rivers, irrigating farm land and taking runoff water into the North Sea. The rivers formed the natural transport infrastructure in the region for centuries and are still used for commercial cargo carrying, but the main water bourne activity is now leisure sailing and the Broads, together with an extensive surrounding network of nature reserves managed by a number of Charities, notably RSPB, is an vital staging area for migrating birds. Wind power was an important resource in the Broads, both for powering milling machinery and for pumping water. Once, hundreds of wind mills and wind pumps dotted the area but their broad sails rotated relatively slowly and did not present the hazard to birds that the modern wind turbine creates. Today few remain; some derilict; some converted to houses, and; some restored to their former glory.
One recent example of overly high expectations, or disinengenuous propaganda, is a press release from the Broads Authority.
This quango was set up in the United Kingdom to administer the Broads National Park. It has come under increasing attacks from sailors and companies hiring out pleasure craft who claim that although they provide most of the funding for the Broads Authority, very little has been spent in return on maintaining navigation, even though this is a legal duty on the Authority and has an effect on the Broads ecology. Critics have cited two areas of spending which they claim is the reason that the Authority has been unable to fund work to maintain and improve navigation on the network of lakes and rivers in the Park. They point out that most of the income of the Authority is used to pay a rapidly increasing wage bill for a greatly enlarged staff, and to pay excessive expenses from employees for car parking near to the Norwich headquarters of the Authority. Like many an unaccountable and unelected Quango, the Broads Authority appears to consider that its prime purpose is to provide a comfortable life for its employees, followed by a duty to political correctness, and then a token consideration of other issues – if there is any resource left over.
The press release announces: “Eco School Ellingham Primary will keep the Green Flag flying by becoming the first school in Norfolk and Suffolk to have its own money-making wind turbine.
The school, near Beccles, has raised funding for a 12 m high turbine which will not only provide the school with its own electricity but will enable it to make money by selling power to the National Grid.
On 14 November,11 am, the Broads Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund administrator, Nigel Dark, will hand over a £5670 cheque to the school as the first payment towards the £24,000 wind turbine. Powergen has agreed to give a similar amount, while the dti will fund the rest. The SDF is money given to National Parks by Defra for sustainable projects.
The presentation will be made after a performance by Nutmeg Puppet Company about how people can adapt to climate change, which is touring schools this autumn.”
If the wind turbine is installed at no cost to the school, it should show a profit because the only cost would be to maintain the turbine through its working life. That maintenance cost should be considerably lower than the value of electricity generated by the turbine during its life.
Sailors who use the Broads and pay tolls to the Broads Authority may consider that a better use of the Authorities SDF money would be on projects that directly benefit the ecology of the waterways and wetlands that make up the Park, such as in encouraging arts and crafts that use the natural sustainable materials available in the park, and in encouraging the construction and use of vessels that are acceptable to sailors but which will reduce pollution in the Park area.
Some will see the most unacceptable aspect of the events described in the press release as being the growth of propaganda to manipulate, particularly to condition young minds to a new faith.
The puppet theatre has long been the tool of propagandists. Jane Wells, the School’s Eco Schools Co-ordinator, said: “the children are concerned about carbon emissions and what’s happening to the planet and are trying to do something about it. They switch off lights, compost, have an organic vegetable garden, are into healthy eating and try to persuade their parents not to buy lots of packaging and to compost. The environment is a core part of our curriculum. We are now hoping that the wind turbine will not only be eco-friendly but will make us money!”
The aims may be worthy but one wonders why a school needs to hire an Eco Schools Co-ordinator, when education should be providing an awareness of history, the present, and the possible future through a curriculum of subjects taught by qualified teachers. Every child should be taught in a way that encourages an inquiring mind, a tolerance of others and an appreciation of the environment. Persuading parents through their children is a concept developed in Germany through the Hitler Youth and, in its updated form, brands anyone who will not accept the Partie Line as “pollutors”