Friday, 18 November 2016

"Save Our Hills"

I can understand, and sympathise with, the Water Protectors of North Dakota, who are peacefully protesting against an oil pipeline crossing Sioux reservation land at Standing Rock.
I'm right there with the Lancashire Nanas, who are protesting about fracking in Lancashire - fracking, like oil, has serious consequences for the environment if (or more likely when) there is a leak. And we need clean water more than we need oil.
But I can't understand the passionate opposition to wind power.

Yesterday there was a stall on the market (and it was a grim, wet and windy day for it), with the slogan Save Our Hills on a chalk board, and a large map of the Local Development Plan for Powys.
The ladies on the stall were objecting to the shaded areas on the map, which have been designated as suitable for wind farms - and it is a large area of Powys. They don't like the way Powys County Council have decided on this without proper consultation. I pointed out that Powys County Council tend not to consult properly about any planning decisions (for instance Gwernyfed School and the other High Schools in Powys, or the library closures that still might happen) so there was nothing different about them making decisions about wind farms in the LDP. But I wasn't going to support their campaign on the grounds that Powys didn't consult. I think wind farms are generally a good idea.
They tried to convince me, showing me a letter to the House of Commons detailing all the disadvantages of wind power, all of which I'd seen before from other people who object to wind farms, so I wasn't convinced.
I mentioned my sister, who has visited a wind farm in Germany, and based on that experience would live next door to one any day. One of the ladies, rather bizarrly, I thought, tried to argue that a) wind farms were only sited next to main roads in Germany and b) Germany has an ugly countryside anyway - which I told her was rubbish. Germany is a beautiful country. And it has wind farms.
I was shown the LDP map, and the lady I was talking to pointed out that the Epynt was clear of shading, meaning that it was considered unsuitable for wind farms, and why couldn't they put the wind farms there?
"But that's Sennybridge," I said, "the military training grounds."
"But the Barracks in Brecon is closing," she said.
(So it is, in eleven years' time, which is probably why the military plans haven't been included in the present LDP).
But closing the Barracks in Brecon doesn't mean that the training ground will stop being used. And there's a more important reason why it's unsuitable for wind farms.
"But - it's got unexploded bombs on it!" I pointed out.

Another argument they were making in opposition to wind farms is the natural beauty of the area and the historical significance. Wind farms, they said, would discourage tourists from visiting the area. I mentioned this to the Stitch and Bitch group that evening, and Ros from New Zealand laughed, and said that in New Zealand (which anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings films will agree is a stunningly beautiful country) wind farms are a tourist attraction!
As far as the natural beauty goes - we are very fortunate to live in this part of the world, but George Monbiot would take one look at our bald uplands, swear about the bloody sheep, and tell us to plant more trees. The ladies pointed out that pylons would have to be built, marching across the countryside, to link up the wind farms to the National Grid. Here's a picture from the Guardian last year (Thursday 9th April 2015):

In the background is a traditional pylon, and in the foreground is a modern pylon which the National Grid is trialing, especially for use in hilly areas and where they want to minimise the visual impact of pylons on the landscape. I think they look rather good.

For the historical significance - well, I was trained as an archaeologist, and I know that the uplands are littered with small prehistoric tombs and standing stones. We even have a hill fort nearby, Castell Dinas, with a Norman castle in the middle of it. And there are more castle mounds along the Welsh Marches than anywhere else in Britain.
Archaeological investigation in the uplands where wind farms are given planning permission may uncover interesting prehistoric remains which are presently unknown - just look what they found on the hill outside Dorstone in Herefordshire! That was a student training dig which has changed our understanding of the Neolithic period in this area. So that's a possibility, but it's not something which will attract large numbers of tourists - while the information gleaned from prehistoric remains can be very exciting, the remains themselves are usually not much to look at. For instance, the Rotherwas Ribbon, discovered during road building outside Hereford, was terribly exciting for prehistorians and archaeologists - but it just looked like a bit of gravel path.
So I don't think the archaeological case is sufficient to oppose wind farms either.

And the benefits of wind farms are great. It's clean, renewable, and if a wind turbine goes wrong, it doesn't cause an ecological disaster like an oil spill or fracking chemicals getting into the water. There are also different designs of wind turbine which minimise the danger to birds. Scotland is certainly in favour - they even export energy from their wind farms at times. And here is a wind farm in Scotland:

In 2013, I wrote about the planning application for a wind turbine in Clyro, which was turned down, and made my views about wind power clear there. The blog post can be found by clicking on the link below, which will show everything I've ever written about wind farms.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

friends of ours in Wales object to the power lines connected with wind farms