The not so carrying wind…

Despite its cleanliness, wind energy simply cannot support the global population.

wind energy fog

Photograph: David Clarke

Author Will Self stated that ‘the countryside is often a man-made landscape, not a natural idyll, and wind turbines are just part of that tradition’ (BBC, 2011). Yet recently, the tradition of wind turbines being a part of our lifestyle has taken a turn for the worst. The Telegraph (2015), reported that for all the vast subsidies it had been given, the wind industry is not fit for purpose. In the colder months, as the the majority of the UK population consume more energy, it was deemed that wind could not sufficiently provide enough energy to meet their needs.

On January 19th 2015 , electricity demand reached its highest level in the winter months, and on the same day the wind turbines generated their lowest output of the season. Demand hit 52.54 gigawatts (GW), but wind only contributed 0.573GW during the same time, which was just 1% of the total (Telegraph, 2015). If wind energy is not able to provide sufficient energy when the UK needs it the most, is it a viable solution worth providing subsides for?

However, despite the excessive cuts on subsidies, the Guardian (2016), reported that Dong Energy, Denmarks largest energy company has said it plans to spend a further £6bn in the UK by 2020 on offshore wind, as it is convinced that the government is serious about supporting wind power. But, is wind energy really all that it’s made out to be. Lakaotas et al, 2002 said that the main problem of wind-power production is that there are usually low wind speeds, there are more rarely stronger winds which blow only for a short time and so only slow-moving turbines can be economically operated.

For birdwatchers, raptors like eagles or vultures are likely to come into contact with the turbines. Also, it’s not just the turbine blades that pose a risk to birds; research indicates that wind developments can disrupt migration routes. What’s more, foraging and nesting habitat can also be lost when turbines are put up (Carbon Brief, undated).

Furthermore, the Journal of Applied Ecology (2012), monitored data for ten different bird species across 18 wind farm sites in the UK. It found that two of them- curlew and snipe – saw a drop in population during the construction phase, which did not recover afterwards. It’s not only the biodiversity that is affected, but there seems to be a nationwide problem of the UK population finding the turbines aesthetically displeasing and noisy. This was the cause with the recent rejection of the Navitus Bay Project in Dorset, as opposers said it would damage tourism and was too close to protected coasts (BBC, 2015).

On the whole, it is debatable whether wind energy will play an important role in our upcoming search for alternative energies. With projects such as Hinkley Point C underway, sufficient investment into improving the technology of wind turbines in needed in order to fully make use of its resource.

References

BBC News, (2016). A Point of View: In praise of wind turbines – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15295769 [Accessed 3 Jan. 2016].

BBC News, (2016). Navitus Bay wind farm refused permission by government – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-34220834 [Accessed 3 Jan. 2016].

Carbon Brief, (2013). Bird death and wind turbines: a look at the evidence – Carbon Brief. [online] Available at: http://www.carbonbrief.org/bird-death-and-wind-turbines-a-look-at-the-evidence [Accessed 3 Jan. 2016].

Heath, A. (2015). Proof that the wind industry cannot be relied upon for our electricity. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/11358770/Proof-that-the-wind-industry-cannot-be-relied-upon-for-our-electricity.html [Accessed 3 Jan. 2016].

Macalister, T. (2016). Major offshore wind operator plans £6bn UK investment by 2020. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/03/major-offshore-wind-operator-plans-6bn-uk-pound-investment-2020 [Accessed 3 Jan. 2016].

Pearce-Higgins, J., Stephen, L., Douse, A. and Langston, R. (2012). Greater impacts of wind farms on bird populations during construction than subsequent operation: results of a multi-site and multi-species analysis. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49(2), pp.386-394.

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