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Subsidy farming

The Boxing Day walk was up part of Glen Devon which has had the misfortune to have a large industrial site built on it since the last time I was there. Yes, you guessed it, there's a bloody great wind farm been built at the top of the glen. Thanks greenies for that particular bit of landscape desecration.

Fifteen turbines I counted, and guess how many were actually operational, at this, the peak time of year for electricity demand? Well, when we arrived, none of the windmills were actually operating at all. After about half an hour, one of them ground into action, so it's not like there wasn't enough wind, although it was a still day. A little later a second one started to rotate a little hesitantly. It didn't last though. A few minutes later, first one and then the other ground to a halt again and it was all still. None had moved again by the time we left.

It's been said again and again that wind farms don't produce power when it's needed and that they can never produce enough, and here is real world evidence of just that. Wind farms are a means for politicians to divert funds to their client companies in the renewables business (in the shape of subsidies), from where it is diverted back to the politicians by means of political donations.

Corruption, pure and simple. And it spoiled my walk.

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Reader Comments (15)

Which is why, as Christopher Brooker keeps pointing out, every wind turbine 'farm' needs to be twinned with another ordinary power station to take over when it is idle. Also, it is not just low winds that bring the blades to a halt but high winds as well.

Happy New Year and keep up the good work!
Dec 27, 2008 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Duff

Wind farms also perform another function for politicians; they advertise their supposedly green and caring credentials over vast areas. An interesting parallel can be drawn between these structures and the church and cathedral spires that served a similar purpose for the ecclesiastical establishment from medieval times onwards. Like wind turbines, they were the tallest structures around, and quite inescapable, but served no useful purpose other than to spread the word.

For some insight into techniques that energy companies use to get planning permission to destroy the beauty of places such as Glen Devon, see here:
Dec 27, 2008 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN
My Lord Bishop,

Don't forget that on a day when the wind isn't blowing much, the turbine draws power from the grid to run the controls and a motor to keep the turbine pointed into the direction of the non-existent wind. Not a lot of people know that. It has also been known that during the official opening of a new wind power station, if there is not much wind blowing, then power is drawn from the grid to turn the blades and make it look as if they are working properly.

Happy New Year to you.
Dec 27, 2008 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby
Damn right. What has been done to Glendevon is hideous. The turbines there have a particularly overweening quality.

Now I take the long way round the Ochills: my blood pressure can take only so much.
Dec 27, 2008 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Wood
This being my first comment on you blog, thank you for a well articulated and interesting blog on an extremely important subject.

However, I think your are unfairly critical to wind farms in general. Despite their obvious limitations - and I have no reason to doubt your judgement on this particular farm - there are sites and circumstances under which wind mills form a very good supplement to other energy sources. The odd or up to three majestically rotating turbines grow on you and can be rather beautiful. Unfortunately, fanatics take it to the extreme and we get overcrowded, ineffective and plain ugly farms breaking up the landscape.
Dec 29, 2008 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoakim
What evidence do you have that they are "a useful backup"? If they were actually economic they would require no subsidy, right?
Dec 29, 2008 at 5:27 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Nice one! If the politicians had to find the subsidies out of their own pockets, I guess there would be fewer windfarms. The worst of it is that the subsidy is disguised, so that few people realise they are paying it!
Jan 1, 2009 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard North
I've just visited the monstrous act of desecration that is the new 'wind farm' (sic) on Romney Marsh, in Kent. Despite a complete absence of wind, several turbines were moving - clearly either to test the damned things, or to gull passers-by into believing they were doing something. Perhaps both?
Jan 1, 2009 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterGCooper

I did wonder if the ones I saw at Glendevon were actually being driven by an electric motor!
Jan 1, 2009 at 7:21 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Apart from the other reasons mentioned, large turbines have to be powered during periods of prolonged idleness to protect their bearings. A couple of years ago I was doing some work at a local authority run industrial estate which had its own turbine. The turbine seemed incongruously positioned - on a tower that seemed a bit low, a bit out of the wind, but prominently visible from the main building where the council had its meetings. It would start turning promptly at 9am on days the council were using the facility, and stop at 5pm!
Jan 2, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterrecyclist
Ha! That would explain it then! Thanks recyclist.
Jan 2, 2009 at 3:31 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
My limited english might be cause for confusion. Sorry for that.

I share your view on subsidiaries speaking for themselves. And I am no believer of large scale wind farms making any significant contribution to our energy supply. Not with the known technology at least.

However, turbines have esthetically grown on me the past years and a single or a few can actually contribute to a scenery. But that is just my opinion.

Under the weather conditions we have in southern Sweden (flat and windy), a small scale, low maintenance turbine would be economical (no subsidiaries apply) as _supplement_ to other sources. To heat one or a few households on windy days.
BTW, backup to me suggests that it would kick in should the original source be inoperable or inadequate. I too find that highly unlikely.
Another, very limited, use is on remote sites to which it would be expensive to extend the power grid.

But will the current technology be largely economical without, in many cases I'm sure, ill fitted subsidiaries? No.

Hope I'm clearer no without it becoming a blog post in itself.
Jan 5, 2009 at 8:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoakim
No that makes sense now.

I don't share your views on the aesthetic appeal of turbines, but as a libertarian, I fully support people's right to build and use turbines, so long as they use their own money to do it.
Jan 5, 2009 at 8:52 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
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Jan 6, 2009 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterPsyMonk
The idea that wind-turbines had motors in them had never entered my mind until I read this blog. Thanks to Phillip and recyclist for that wee gem. The Monty Pythonesque imagery conjured up by the 'opening ceremony' and the 'Council meeting' slotted in beautifully with the recent story (covered in wuwt) about the turbine in Peterborough that transformed itself into a trebuchet and began launching ice missiles at all and sundry!
Thanks also to TonyN for his Harmless Sky link
for both his superb analogy between cathedral spires and 'reach for the skies' ego-enhancing structures and the exposure of the Photomontage trickery employed to steamroller the planning process.

Finally thanks to My Lord Bishop for granting sanctuary for those of us who chose to lurk here.

PS - On my way to work I can clearly see the witchery of wind-mills that so cursed your Boxing-Day perambulations. Thanks to the frequent blocking highs that prevent our maritime climate from kicking in and protecting us from the extremes of our Northerly Latitude - they have remained motionless for the past two days - or perhaps they just decide to start earning their keep once I've past them!
Jan 6, 2009 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

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