The UK government has approved a vast new wind farm of 250 turbines off the Welsh coast, the second largest in the world, bringing the total planned power from UK offshore wind to 4.5 GigaWatts. Europe’s largest onshore wind farm opened this week in Portugal, reportedly providing an estimated 240 MegaWatts of power. Both projects faced a lot of opposition on aesthetic grounds, and a study earlier this year showed that turbines can kill bats by producing negative pressure that gives them the bends.
So is wind power worth it? Renewable energy proponents, such as the remarkable Tony Marmont who I spoke to for a recent feature about off-grid energy production, has turbines on his farm that provide him with so much electricity (50MW per year) that he stores his energy in hydrogen tanks to use in a fuel cell.
But the venerable Jim Lovelock, who I chatted to today, and who believes that 90% of humanity will be wiped out owing to climate change by the end of the century, hates onshore wind farms. They have blighted his local countryside, he told me, while providing very little energy per hectare. Lovelock is an advocate of charcoal storage as a climate change solution: converting 80% of waste biomass to char (by burning off the water in the near absence of oxygen) and burying it in land or in the oceans to solve our greenhouse emissions problems.
I agree about the promise of char burial – I have no idea why it is not being done on a far larger scale. Surely all farmers should have a char burner? But I also think that wind power, free and abundant as it is in northern Europe, should be exploited.
I don’t find wind farms unattractive, actually, I find them mesmerizing and their symmetry has a certain beauty. But perhaps that’s just me.