Long life

Local protests don't stop windfarms. Subsidy cuts do

While my neighbours and I fought valiantly against a windfarm project, I think it was state-funding reductions that finally stopped it

8 February 2014

9:00 AM

8 February 2014

9:00 AM

Here in the valley of the River Tove in south Northamptonshire my chickens are laying copiously, my ducks are quacking loudly, and my Jack Russell, Polly, is yapping gaily in celebration of a great victory: the Spanish energy company, which for more than three years has been threatening to desecrate this pleasant bit of countryside with a line of eight giant wind turbines, each taller than Big Ben, has suddenly said it is abandoning the plan after deciding that it is not feasible. The company, Gamesa, belatedly revealed that it would not after all be seeking planning permission for this wind farm in a curt and otherwise uninformative little letter to the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire, Andrea Leadsom, who has gallantly championed the cause of the local community that has been campaigning vigorously against it.

I can’t tell you what a relief this is, not only for the bats whose little lungs will be saved from bursting under the air pressure caused by wind turbines, nor for the horses at Towcester racecourse who will be spared the fear and confusion provoked by the ‘shadow flicker’ of their rotating blades, but also for the many human residents of the valley, including me, whose homes were expected to fall in value by at least 30 per cent if the ‘Tove Renewable Energy Park’, so-called by its planners to suggest bucolic peace and ecological virtue, were to go ahead. We used to feel guilty about putting our own petty interests above those of entire populations fighting global warming; but now that we know that wind farms do nothing whatsoever to reduce carbon emissions (not a single fossil-fuel power station has been closed because of them), we don’t feel guilty any more. We feel, on the contrary, that we have been fighting in a just cause to preserve some of what’s left of the English countryside and of the environs of the listed buildings and monuments in which this otherwise unsung county abounds. There is no conservation body here that hasn’t opposed Gamesa’s plan.


Gamesa hasn’t disclosed its reasons for dropping the project. It would be nice to think that our local action group made a difference; that all those placards attached to trees saying ‘No wind farm here’ had their effect, that the ‘blimp’ (a kind of balloon) flying over Towcester racecourse to show people the extraordinary height of the proposed turbines made a great impression; but I rather doubt it. As Andrea Leadsom says on her website, ‘Gamesa do not elaborate on why they have decided this is not a feasible project but I hope that the recent reductions in government subsidies will have contributed to the decision.’

I expect that that was the main reason, because local opposition to wind farms has so far had a poor record of achieving anything. Even when local councils have rejected planning permission for them, their decisions have tended to be overruled by government inspectors on appeal. But the two recent reductions in government subsidies (paid for, incidentally, by hard-up electricity consumers to the further enrichment of already rich landowners) may well have given some energy companies second thoughts. The great Mrs Leadsom is no fan of the European Union, but she warmly supports the European Commission’s proposal to end all subsidies to wind farms on the grounds that the wind industry is now ‘mature’ and should be allowed to operate without taxpayers’ support.

The thing I don’t understand, however, is why energy companies threatening local communities with these frightful impositions are allowed to keep them in suspense for years on end. Here in the Tove Valley we have spent thousands of pounds and held countless unhappy meetings in anticipation of a decision by Gamesa that it has spent years refusing to reveal. Should it not have been obliged to declare its intentions at a somewhat earlier stage? Yes; but we have been luckier than others, such as the people around the village of Helmdon, a few miles north of here, whose hated wind farm proposal has been granted, rejected, and then reopened again, with a final decision now resting in the hands of Eric Pickles, the portly Local Government Secretary.

He is expected to decide in May, and may he decide rightly. For his decision will be an important factor in determining whether Northamptonshire, despite being less windy than any other English county, but because of its lack of ‘national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, green belts or airport exclusion zones, which would get in the way of turbines 125 metres high’ (I quote the CPRE), will remain ‘the wind farm capital of England’ (the CPRE again). It is completely ridiculous that it should be so.

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  • Homsac

    Dear Mr Chancellor, It is disappointing that somebody who clearly has very limited knowledge of this subject feels that they have the authority to write an article such as this, portraying hearsay and misinformation as fact. It would take me all day to correct everything in this article so I will focus here on some of the more important points.
    Firstly, you suggest that the value of properties owned by yourself and others are expected to fall by at least 30% if the wind farm were to go ahead. I would be interested to see what evidence you have to support this. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors clearly states on its website that ‘there is no definitive answer to the question’ of whether wind farms reduce property value and goes on to reference a number of studies, none of which found anything like a 30% reduction in value caused by wind farms (let alone the minimum 30% as you suggest). This information is not hidden away in the depths of the internet, it is readily available in probably the first place one would look if they were genuinely interested in finding out whether any research had been undertaken into this topic.
    Secondly, you suggest that your guilt for putting your own petty interests above those of ‘entire populations’ has subsided since you have discovered that not a single fossil fuel power station has closed because of wind farms. I appreciate that it is very difficult to attribute a power plant closure to any one particular event or reason. However, it may be helpful to look at the statistics. Since 2010, 7 gas plants, totalling 3.2GW, and 3 coal fired plants, totalling 5GW, have closed in the UK. This has coincided with an increase in renewable energy of c. 6.3GW, and c. 1.4GW of new gas capacity over the same period. Now, I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to suggest that some of that gas and coal capacity has been replaced by the renewable energy capacity, do you? You may want to reconsider your guilt?
    And Thirdly, the EU prevents member states from providing long term state aid to domestic industries that can function without support. This is set to become relevant to onshore wind in the near future as it is becoming more mature and cost competitive with conventional electricity generation. There is no requirement to remove subsidy until such time as it is not needed, however, the cost of energy from onshore wind farms has reduced significantly and is likely to continue to do so, thereby meaning that it would need no ‘support’. We have already witnessed government’s announcement that new nuclear energy through the Hinkley C project will be more expensive per unit than onshore wind is expected to be when it comes online in 2023.
    I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

    • David Kay

      thanks for not going on.

    • patdok

      Homsac, RICS say them selves that their report was incomplete and is now out of date and should not be quoted. Perhaps you should read the findings of Dr Steve Gibbons from the LSE, a 12 year study of 1.2 million homes, he finds that over 34 Billion pounds have been taken off house prices in the UK due to wind farms.

      • Homsac

        I was referring the the quote on the RICS website which poses the question: “Can wind farms affect property prices?” and then offers that: “There is no definitive answer to this question.” http://www.rics.org/uk/knowledge/more-services/guides-advice/wind-farms/. That is the current RICS position.

        I’m assuming that as you’re referring to Dr Gibbons’ report you must be aware that the final version has not yet been published. There is a clearly marked draft available on his website (It’s also worth pointing out that the findings have changed in this draft by his own admission since an earlier draft reported on in July 2013, reducing the level of reported effect). Furthermore, the findings of this ‘draft’ study do not even come close to the minimum 30% alleged here. Using a metaphor offered by another commenter, to suggest otherwise would be ‘cutting the jigsaw to fit’.
        There appears to be quite a lot of disagreement with the information I’ve presented, but no-one has provided any evidence to the contrary. Reading something in the Telegraph (or Spectator) doesn’t make it true. I’ve always found a bit of background reading and objective analysis helps my understanding of things, but even then, there are some topics which I don’t understand fully because I’m not professionally qualified.

    • BazzaMcKenzie

      You don’t have to be an eminent economist to understand that industrial wind turbine complexes, like airports, open cut mines, or nuclear or conventional power stations must adversely affect local property prices.

      Some people may be indifferent about living near them but no one is positively attracted to them. However, large numbers of people would prefer not to live near one. Thus the net effect has to be a reduction in the number of potential purchasers for any such property. Whenever there is a general reduction in potential purchasers for a static supply, the price falls.

      This is simple economics, that is obviously beyond Homsac and the apologists for the industrial wind turbine parasites.

      • Homsac

        That is your opinion and I can see how you have reached that conclusion. I have reached a different conclusion on the basis that there are a large number of variables that attribute value to a property including size, number of bedrooms, size/quality of outside space, parking spaces, quality of local schools, transport links, nearby amenities, etc., etc. Of these variables a ‘view’ is one which may feature as having attributable value to potential purchasers, but this will very much depend on the nature of the property in question.
        Research which is currently available (studies by Berkeley National Laboratory (2013) in the US and Oxford Brookes University (2008) in the UK) into the topic supports my view and suggests that the influence of the presence of a wind farm on property prices becomes statistically insignificant in the context of all of these other variables.
        My issue, which has been neither apologised for or corrected by Mr Chancellor, is that he claims a minimum 30% reduction in the value of nearby homes would arise. This is clearly not backed up by any evidence and is a sensationalist claim fabricated to serve an agenda. Whether you agree with my opinion or not, it is not helpful to anyone when journalist take it upon themselves to make things up and pass it off as fact. What I have tried to do is present some balance by highlighting some of the things in the above article which I know to be incorrect.

        • BazzaMcKenzie

          Research in this area tends to be decidely shoddy because it does not typically take into account the market awareness date of windfarms. All experienced investors know the price of a tradable in any market changes when some investors become aware of changed circumstances involving that tradeable. In the case of windfarms, this is often several years before a formal announcement is made. But academic studies generally want a nice defined point to work from and take the point of announcement to work from, which is actually after most of the value change in the market has happened.

      • Tom

        I couldn’t have said it better

  • Sam Chafe

    Ah,
    yes, I love an argument, especially when it involves a delightfully
    condescending note to kick things off. Who knows who ‘Homsac’ is or whether his
    qualifications are, what shall we say in the nicest possible way, authoritative?
    Clearly, he is not an advocate of the NIMBY principle, one that effectively is
    the deserved preoccupation of anyone who is so impinged by bureaucratic
    trespass. And I just so love the effective demand by our anonymous correspondent
    of Mr. Chancellor that “You may want to reconsider your guilt.” Guilt, mind you,
    not “Would you like to reconsider”? I do love the arrogance of you English
    dickheads. You wouldn’t last long in Australia, mate.

    • WindEnergy’sAbsurd

      Homsac is cutting his jigsaws to fit!

  • alpha2actual

    Lovelock is objecting to a wind turbine project in North Devon, UK in a letter to the Torridge District Council as testimony against the proposed Witherdon Wood Wind Turbine project. “I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human need. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilization.”

    James Lovelock, Environmentalist and inventor of the Gaia hypothesis

  • alpha2actual

    Here’s a synopsis of a typical Anthropogenic Climate Change abatement project, Cape Wind Nantucket. This is the will be the first offshore wind turbine installation in the United States.

    A combined cycle natural gas turbine plant studied by the DOE completed in 2010 is rated at 570 mw and produces 470 mw, capacity factor 85%. cost $311 MILLION. life cycle 35 years therefore this plant will produce 133 Terawatts life cycle.

    Cape Wind project in Nantucket sound has been approved. the project will cost $2.6 BILLON, and it has secured funding for $2 billon of that from a Japanese bank but this is believed to be subject to the project gaining a loan guarantee from the u.s. department of energy. The contracted cost of the wind farm’s energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in Massachusetts. the bay state is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. Even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. moreover, these costs are just the initial costs they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. by year 15 the rate will be $.38 per Kilowatt.

    This project is rated at 468 mw and will produce 143 mw after applying a capacity factor of 30.4 % (as computed the the University of Delaware) the time the wind actually blows, life cycle is 20 years therefore this project will produce 24.6 Terawatts life cycle. Insofar as this project located in an area which is enshrouded in fog 200, on average, days of the year a low wind velocity environment, a more realistic life cycle output would be 15 Terawatts.

    • Bonkim

      Energy diversity – we need all sources and whilst the US gas recently jumped on the fracking bandwagon, all sources are finite and resources depleting fast.

      Renewables will not be developed if not subsidised – it is a political decision – same as whether to build nuclear.

      Now you may not believe in global warming and climate change, I do and I also believe mankind’s tenure on earth is limited – a century or two at most – in that context what the heck – burn all available fuels before they run out.

      • alpha2actual

        1. It irks me when people conflate Anthropogenic Climate Change with Climate Change and Anthropogenic Global Warming with Global Warming. Climate Change is studied by Paleoclimatologists who work with ice and ocean sediment cores. They are interested in time frames of tens and hundreds of thousands of years and geological epochs. For instance, the climate record shows that there have been 5 interglacial (warm) and 4 glacial (cold) episodes during the current 400,000 record. We are obviously enjoying an interglacial event but 12,000 years from now all of Canada and 40% of the United States including Manhattan, thankfully, will be under 5,000 feet of ice. It is undoubtedly true that 99% of scientists believe in Climate Change however to state as fact that 97% believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change is both absurd and a statistical improbability. The climate record also shows that global temperature increases precede attending increases in atmospheric CO2 by periods ranging from 400 to 1400 years.

        The fossil record and ocean sediment indicates that six thousand years ago Northern Africa rapidly devolved from a verdant South America Savannah into what is now the Sahara Desert. This event caused catastrophic upheavals to populations bordering the Mediterranean Sea. This begs the question, what anthropogenic vector caused this to happen? I’m quite sure that the heavy industry of the period didn’t play a role in this event. I’m with the Axial Precession hypothesis on this one. Anyone who believes that global climate supercomputer models are useful is, of course, living in a state of sin. Apologies to John von Neumann’s famous quote on mathematical algorithms that generate random numbers.

        2. An accounting of global electricity production will indicate that less than one half of one percent may be attributable to renewable energy, yet $359 BILLON was expended on this nonsense. This investment has been found wanting by the IPCC which recommends that $700 BILLON is more appropriate.

        3. it further irks me when you play the “future generation welfare card” when, in fact, the modern Environmental movement has murdered tens of millions inhabitants of developing countries predicated on junk science.

        TO WIT

        It is a misconception that the Environmental Movement is benign, well intentioned, and monolithic– it is not. In reality the movement is extremely factionalized and schizophrenic. The legitimate players are the Rent Seekers, Grant Chasers, and Politicans pandering to a constituency, the Green Lobby.

        The True Believers are the Transnational Progressives, Luddites, Malthusians, Narcissistic Xenophobes, Gaia cultists, Margaret Sanger Eugenics disciples, Eco Socialists, and Pathological Altruists to name but a few. Review your “Silent Spring” and the attending banning and restrictions on the use of DDT. The carnage visited on the inhabitants of the Sub Sahara, South America, and Asia is unconscionable. Read Erlich’s “Population Bomb” and the Club of Rome literature “carrying capacity” is code for disdain of inhabitants of Third World countries.. Science is intended to drive policy not the other way around. Policy driven Science misallocates capital but more importantly takes lives.

        These modern environmentalists, and I’m including the Global Warming Alarmists, are immoral and inhuman and have racked up a body count that surpasses 80 million and counting, 80% children under five and pregnant women. The 40% US corn production diverted to the Ethanol boondoggle price increase effect on the global market has moved 20 to 30 million inhabitants of developing countries from food insecurity to starvation.

        Review your “Silent Spring” and the attending banning and restrictions on the use of DDT. The carnage visited on the inhabitants of the Sub Sahara, South America, and Asia is unconscionable. The death toll from the anti DDT junk science has resulted in a body count that surpasses 80 million and counting, 80% children under five and pregnant women. The 40% US corn production diverted to the Ethanol boondoggle price increase effect on the global market has moved 20 to 30 million inhabitants of developing countries from food insecurity to starvation.

        • Bonkim

          Regardless of source of climate change – it is a reality – as isthat of population explosion and resource depletion.

          I have nothing against nuclear power and will be used – in fact necessary to stabilise the intermittent renewable generation.

          Much waffle other wise. The only certainty is the demise of humans on earth arising from huge numbers and fast depleting resources – the last two man-made.

          • alpha2actual

            So you admit that you are superior to inhabitants of developing countries, and it irks you that they may consume natural resources that really would more efficiently depolyed on you and your ilk the pseudo intellectuals, malignant narcissists, or general all around Pathological Altruists.

            It is a misconception that the Environmental Movement is benign, well intentioned, and monolithic– it is not. In reality the movement is extremely factionalized and schizophrenic. The legitimate players are the Rent Seekers, Grant Chasers, and Politicans pandering to a constituency, the Green Lobby.

            The True Believers are the Transnational Progressives, Luddites, Malthusians, Narcissistic Xenophobes, Gaia cultists, Margaret Sanger Eugenics disciples, Eco Socialists, and Pathological Altruists to name but a few. Review your “Silent Spring” and the attending banning and restrictions on the use of DDT. The carnage visited on the inhabitants of the Sub Sahara, South America, and Asia is unconscionable. Read Erlich’s “Population Bomb” and the Club of Rome literature “carrying capacity” is code for disdain of inhabitants of Third World countries.. Science is intended to drive policy not the other way around. Policy driven Science misallocates capital but more importantly takes lives.

            These modern environmentalists, and I’m including the Global Warming Alarmists, are immoral and inhuman and have racked up a body count that surpasses 80 million and counting, 80% children under five and pregnant women. The 40% US corn production diverted to the Ethanol boondoggle price increase effect on the global market has moved 20 to 30 million inhabitants of developing countries from food insecurity to starvation.

            Review your “Silent Spring” and the attending banning and restrictions on the use of DDT. The carnage visited on the inhabitants of the Sub Sahara, South America, and Asia is unconscionable. The death toll from the anti DDT junk science has resulted in a body count that surpasses 80 million and counting, 80% children under five and pregnant women. The 40% US corn production diverted to the Ethanol boondoggle price increase effect on the global market has moved 20 to 30 million inhabitants of developing countries from food insecurity to starvation.

          • Bonkim

            Population explosion and resource depletion affects all – developed and underdeveloped. No distinction when it comes to the end of man’s tnure on earth. Underdevelopment is the result of poor social organisation – and nature eliminates the weak and incompetent – and developed/underdeveloped – transient and change with time.

      • Tom

        Volunteers required to make room – No doubt you will be at the front of the line.

        • Bonkim

          Culling will be involuntary – and by natural wastage Tom – nature will not make any distinction between you and I – we both are expendable. We should be more concerned with the generations following us – we have created most of the damage they will be paying for.

          • Tom

            Speak for yourself Bonk

          • Bonkim

            Nature will not listen to you or I – so don’t live in hope you will somehow survive when death and destruction hits all round. It already is dire in many parts of the world and we are all interconnected by the same land, water, and air.

          • Tom

            Boy, you must be a joy to live with .

          • Bonkim

            Famous last words!

    • Doggie Roussel

      Could we please have a layman’s precis of all that, please ?

      • alpha2actual

        Are you representing the universal WE or the general all around we? Are you requesting a “precis” as in summation, or PRECIS , a product of the Hadely Center, a grant chasing parasitical institution, allegedly of some repute can be used to generate finer-resolution, physically consistent regional climate projections when GCM (General Climate Model) outputs are not sufficient to provide regional details as required by V&A assessment.

        Be advised the billions of dollars invested General Computer Models (Global) have been pissed away due to the fact that they have been unable to replicate the past climate temperature record. It should be readily apparent that the supercomputer GCM product is unworthy of the term model, instead they are “scenarios” suffering form parameter selection bias, confirmation bias etc and in general all around grant chasing incompetence. As a forecasting tool they are useless insofar they fail the majority of criteria required to generate a statistically valid “forecast” when applying the generally accepted criterion, in the literature, for generating valid forecasting outcomes

        • BarkingAtTreehuggers

          He’s a schmuck who reads the Express in the Library at the Poly (the only one that would have him). I wouldn’t bother.

          Great post btw.

          • Doggie Roussel

            Hilarious… the poster with a merkin as an avatar… has got the hump….

            This is about his third bitchy snipe at my quoting a Daily Express reference to foreign aid…

            There must be very little of any consequence in his life.

  • Terry Field

    In the face of global economic realities, these Euro pricing distortions must and will end.
    And global climate change disaster will see off 6,000,000,000 people – maybe more, from the current population level, within 150 years.
    Reality is unavoidable.
    Dreaming does not make it different.

    • Tom

      Wanna bet?

      • Terry Field

        No need.
        I am always correct; never wrong.

        • Tom

          You too eh!

          • Terry Field

            Just me , old cocker, just me!

          • Tom

            What can I say ?

          • Terry Field

            Something along the lines of ‘ Oh great and Wise One, I tremble in the presence of your Words of Wisdom; Praise be Thy name! ‘ would be quite acceptable.

          • Tom

            You are dreaming again

  • Julie Gray

    All wind industrial sites should be stopped and closed down all over the world not only because they do not work but as we all know they are an environmental disaster and only a money making venture for a few people who cannot do anything else. Go Solar.

    • Tom

      Go solar?? really? and why would you say that?

    • Terry Field

      It is interesting that, despite the massive shift to fracked gas in the USA, total carbon output is above the upper expectations by the climate change scientists.
      SO
      What chance of doing anything meaningful with the totally inadequate technologies of wind and solar??
      The answer; no chance.
      The nasty reality is that the only viable alternative to hydrocarbons is nuclear, and the scale of required nuclear to make the required difference is such that there is not sufficient uranium to feed the huge number of reactors needed.
      SO
      I see no chance of maintaining the human population, and avoiding disastrous climate change.
      Comments?
      Denyer fruitcakes always welcome!
      Silly nuclear-hating greeny-type Caroline Lucas types also welcome to come out with their usual absurd codswallop.

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