Friday, 19 February 2010

Wind Power - are we just going round in circles?

I think the majority of people in the United Kingdom understand that whilst the environment is important, compromises sometimes have to be made.

I think most people understand that governments sometimes make hard decisions that may be unpopular but are deemed necessary.

I think many people understand that the population of the UK places huge demands on our national grid for energy.

However, even with this plethora of understanding at the forefront of your grey-matter the following news is going to make you splutter your coffee, tut out loud or even shake your head for a whole minute.

Before I present that moment- (and to give you time to ensure no scalding coffee is within spillage range)- let me give you some background information:

Haverigg Wind Farm was built in the early 1990s, one of the first wind-farms in the UK it is a shining example of wind development. Producing an efficiency of 35%, above the DTI's 2005 average figure of 28.2%, not bad for the old man of UK wind farms! Further the 8 turbines were funded by ethical investors and the farm is still community owned. A model and structure that is hugely popular in wind energy behemoth's such as Denmark and Germany.

Now time to splutter- There are plans abound to build a new nuclear power station on this site!

Yes! Can you think of something more hypocritical (and counterproductive) from a goverment which is shouting about movement toward a low carbon future!?

Clouds loom over Haverigg Wind Farm in Cumbria (Photograph Braemore Wind Farm)

The proposal for a nuclear power plant on this site was submitted by energy company RWE last year to much (and obvious) furore from environmental groups and locals alike. For a comprehensive article from last April check out Terry Macalister's piece in the Guardian.

Now if you will allow I shall place my academic hat on and play devil's advocate for a paragraph or so. Let us pretend we are the government... more specifically we are a senior minister in the Department for Energy and Climate Change...hell let's go the whole hog- we are Ed Milliband (Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change) 

- We understand why nuclear power isn't a golden bullet which can solve all of our energy needs, but we also appreciate that to meet our demands as a nation for the next 50 years - new nuclear plants are a necessity.
- We are familiar with the terms N.I.M.B.Y (Not in my back yard) and L.U.L.U's (Locally unwanted land use) and so expect any community to oppose plans for a nuclear plant within their locale.
- We understand that the proposed nuclear power plant could produce 3,600 megawatts compared with the wind farm's approximate 3.5MW output.
Therefore we conclude that we should build a nuclear plant on the site at Kirksanton, labelling the furore from environmental groups, wind experts and local residents a maelstrom in a whitehall tea-cup. (don't worry we can claim it on expenses- oh ok, well get some posh biscuits too!)

OK, I agree with you Alex, I hear your brains murmuring to themselves, but I read about this last year- so why bring it up now? 

Well if it wasn't enough that a child of 4 could see the myopic nature of these proposals- the government has for some reason decided to adopt a fast-track planning system under its Nuclear National Policy Statement.
Meaning that not only are locals concerns being swept under the carpet, but also little parliamentary scrutiny has been pored over the proposals.
(Fast-track planning!? - if we're moving to a low carbon economy why don't we use this for siting wind-farms?!)

So if you, like me have a brain please email the Department for Energy and Climate Change telling them what you think about the proposals at Kirksanton in Cumbria. Friends of the Earth are leading a campaign, here you can send a message opposing the plans with just one click.
Lets see if the wheels of democracy (however creakily) can still revolve- long live Haverigg wind farm!

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