[Updated disclosure] The short answer, obviously, is votes. Votes from folks who, in general, don’t want their view spoiled. Their view. Spoiled. Actually, let’s be slightly more specific about that: folks who don’t want any view that they deem as important spoiled.
You’ll note here I am completely ignoring the ‘noise’ issue, the wind farm sickness issue, the ornithological issue and the ecological issue. I am even ignoring the subsidy cost/benefit issue. Why? Because in each case you might argue it either way. Well actually, in the case of Windfarm sickness syndrome, there is evidence only one way. And in each case you will take your view according to your overall socio-political standpoint.
So let’s ignore these things for now and talk about the views that wind farms supposedly spoil. Actually, no, let’s not say supposedly, let’s give it an unequivocal ‘spoil’. Let’s say wind turbines have no redeeming features whatsoever on aesthetic grounds. A wind farm, a turbine, one of those new rotating poles, all of them spoil views of nature, of landscape, all of it.
Now consider this. Our climate is changing. It is warming. 97% of scientists agree (it’s like L’Oreal, but only 81 out of 111 agree that the shampoo works – and we believe that don’t we?). To stop this in its tracks we need to generate power cleanly. We can do it in a number of ways: nuclear fission, hydro, solar pv, wind. I am leaving biomass out of the equation here because, as I am sure you agree, the 50-year carbon neutral cycle doesn’t end up helping us in the timescale that we need to act. And there’s limited capacity for Hydro, solar PV uses alot of rare earth materials and nuclear, well, nuclear has lots of issues. Wind though, wind has fewer issues, fewer negatives, but the big one, the humdinger, is the view. The spoiled view. It’s a killer.
Time to consider the voter. The Tory voter – and I am sorry but I am going to generalise here unashamedly, unsupported by specific research, but evidenced by all the demographic studies they publish in various newspapers across this fine United nation we live in – is generally white, middle-class, affluent even, nearing retirement, country-living and probably dead within 25 years.
Do I have to spell it out? My thesis is this: the Tories, understanding that their mandate is built from this type of groundswell, cannot allow the hills around these voters’ homes to be peppered with wind farms – if they did, well, they’d be voted out and some anti-wind, anti-green, anti-antis would get in led by the deeply unpleasant Nigel Farrage. These voters do not want change and they do not want their views ruined, despoiled, raped. But we have already given them that wind farms spoil views haven’t we? But I can’t really leave it there – you didn’t think I would anyway did you? And not only because in my view I think that in this decade, at this time, a stand of turbines is the most beautiful, hopeful, visionary thing a community or a nation can do, but because we’re talking about a temporary installation. That’s right its only temporary. Not permanent. To be removed. Gone.
Because these windfarms will eventually be dismantled. Every single one has to be dismantled. Taken down. The ground, and the view returned to its pristine state of being. This work is built into every business plan ever proposed for any of these installations. It is a condition of planning consent. And these Tory voters (a) will be dead before this happens and (b) will be dead before climate change really bites, and therefore oppose windfarms with their every sinew. They will not have the last years of their life ruined by the despoiling view from their kitchen sink in their £1M+ mansion (yes, yes, generalising for effect, I know it!). What stress and heartache would this cause? Such aesthetically promoted despair? Such deep and abiding sadness? (With my apologies to those that despair and those that are sad, and also those that enjoy looking at windmills through their kitchen window).
If I could say anything to these people, I’d say, stop being so very selfish and see that your view is a worthy sacrifice to the greater good, to your children, your grandchildren, your inheritors… I’d say to the Tories, stop thinking about winning these selfish votes, and think about an economy which is strengthened by a world-class wealth-generating renewables industry – think of the votes of those who’ll be living in this country in 25 years time – they could be your future …
I want to leave you with a further thought. Suppose you felt that commercial forestry was a blight on the landscape. You might think too, using my argument, that that’s OK because on 25-40 years the trees will be gone. Well, in the case of forestry, it’s not the same. What use can you put an area felled of its timber. Um, well, only more commercial forestry. If I were to proclaim a moratorium, it would not be on the temporary forests of metal windmills, it would be on the permanent monoculture of industrial woodlands… (Actually to be fair the forestry industry is actually doing much to change this and may actually end up riding to climate’s rescue – but more of that another time).
In the interests of full disclosure, I am a member of the Scottish Greens, but you guessed that already didn’t you?
UPDATE: And as per comments below, we can see three turbines from our property, and, when the conditions are favourable, hear the soft whump of the blades as they rotate.
C. S. Dixon-Spain