Wind protagonists in a spin of their own making
I WAS surprised to read last week that Simon Maden thinks of himself a victim of “negative spin” (Wind turbine company hits out at ‘negative spin’, October 18).
His company has benefited from over ten years of unrelenting pro-wind spin from the EU, government, the wind industry and the pressure groups it, and government, help fund.
Meanwhile, anyone who has dared question the efficacy of wind power has had their honesty impugned, been likened to a Holocaust denier and had Ed Miliband telling them that “it is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area.”
But, far from being intimidated, opposition has grown as people have seen the results of the wind rush and found out more about wind power generation.
It is not anti-wind spin which results in exit polls at wind developers’ exhibitions recording between 78 per cent (West Ancroft) and 93 per cent (Middleton Burn) opposition.
Public opposition has also been hardened by the behaviour of the wind industry. Pro-wind pundit Jonathon Porritt complained recently of “the brutish behaviour of some large wind developers in England, who have ridden roughshod over local communities.”
The majority of farmers take their responsibilities as guardians of our tourist landscapes and as good neighbours seriously. Most are no different from the general public in believing that large wind turbines damage our valued landscapes.
A recent poll in ‘Farmer’s Weekly’ saw over 86 per cent of respondents agreeing with ‘Countryfile’ presenter Matt Baker that “wind turbines are a threat to the British countryside.”
Nearly all the leading landowners in Northumberland, while encouraging biomass, solar and energy-saving projects, have refused to have large turbines on their land.
The Duke of Northumberland summed up their view when he said: “I have studied the debate, arguments and statistics and come to the personal conclusion that wind farms divide communities, ruin landscapes, affect tourism, make a minimal contribution to our energy needs and a negligible contribution towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
“The landowner and developer are enriched, while the consumer is impoverished by higher energy costs. Turbines are ugly, noisy and completely out of place in our beautiful, historic landscape.”
The wind industry itself is responsible for much of its bad press. For example, comprehensive trials of home wind turbines in 2009 found that, on average, the turbines studied provided only 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the output claimed by manufacturers.
It has been a similar story with farm turbines. I talked to the CEO of Evance Wind Turbines at a wind industry seminar in Durham this year. He agreed that the industry had been damaged by the mis-selling of smaller turbines.
A survey by Lloyds TSB Scotland shows that 40 per cent of farmers with wind turbines found that the returns were not as good as they had been led to expect.
More bad publicity has come from reports of technical failures and bankruptcies. It was not anti-wind spin which put Mr Maden’s company in the news when a newly-built 30m Hannevind turbine at Coldingham span out of control and had to be collapsed in order to protect the public (‘Turbine brought down due to mechanical failure’, Berwick Advertiser, December 18, 2011).
Hannevind went bankrupt in October 2011, just before the rogue Coldingham turbine was erected. It followed the failure of the leading UK manufacturer of smaller turbines, Proven Energy, which went into receivership in September 2011 after a major mechanical problem with its flagship model.
Over 600 Proven customers were left high and dry by the collapse and subsequent revocation of the company’s liabilities when it was sold to Irish builders Kingspan.
Defra erected three 15m Proven turbines in a prominent position outside their offices in Alnwick as a ‘demonstration project’. They have stood idle since mid-2010. That is real “negative spin”.
The renewable industry press reports that other smaller turbines have inherent design issues and are not living up to expectations.
The reaction has been for many agents to recommend much larger, more highly engineered, German, American and Canadian turbines. But these are coming up against stricter planning controls in the Scottish Borders, Lothians and County Durham where planners say they are at saturation point with turbines. The result is that many applications are being withdrawn or refused on the advice of planning officers.
These facts may explain why Maden Eco is selling fewer turbines. In view of the issues outlined here, perhaps Mr Maden might consider looking more closely at the real reasons for his business problems rather than casting about for people to blame.
Turbine business is based on our energy subsidies
SO Simon Maden feels hard-done-by because he has to obey the planning rules when erecting wind turbines. Is his enterprise so noble that the legitimate concerns of neighbours about the visual and other effects of the structures he is erecting should count for nothing?
Mr Maden’s business model is built upon ‘subsidies’ that actually come out of the energy bills that all of us have to pay – and as we all know, these are going up all the time. He must expect that we will hold him firmly to account.
The wind turbines he is erecting may be a nice little earner for a few, and make some others feel good that “we are doing something to combat climate change.”
But the reality is that they produce very little reliable power (how many would be erected if there was no feed-in tariff?) and that proliferation of the large ones will blight our precious landscape.
As Mr Maden correctly says, “the tide is turning” against wind turbines. But not because of “negative spin” (whatever he means by that: turbines turning backwards perhaps?) but because a growing majority has clocked that subsidised wind power is a scam.
Trevelyan deserves credit for broadband campaign
LAST week you reported on Mrs Trevelyan’s campaign for super-fast broadband to reach every property in the county.
Mrs Trevelyan was the Conservatives’ defeated candidate in Berwick in the last General Election and is now, as you said, their parliamentary spokesman up here.
As a Lib Dem (of sorts), I believe that no party has a perfect answer to anything and that therefore we should listen to and, if we’re allowed, work with our opponents. So I write to congratulate Mrs Trevelyan on joining this county-led campaign and indeed putting herself forward to chair it.
Given the fairly widely held, and doubtless mistaken, perception of the local Conservatives (tricky and misleading with a tendency to jump on bandwagons and claim less than fully deserved credit), this move by Mrs Trevelyan to back an initiative by a Lib Dem minority-led council is most welcome.
It looks like support for a move away from the old politics of point-scoring and slagging opponents; an acceptance that, when possible, working together can be more profitable for more people in Northumberland.
To help this new collaboration, it might be useful for me to clarify a couple of points arising from the Advertiser’s report. The iNorthumberland Broadband Advisory Group to which you referred was a county initiative and is the body which will adopt the county council’s ‘community engagement plan’.
For some time it has had officers recruiting campaigners and local digital champions to collect support and evidence of need, for super-fast broadband up here, particularly in the rural areas.
The website for registering such support is on the county council’s website (www.inorthumberland.org.uk/iwant); over 13,000 people have so far registered.
Doubtless whoever set up the new site to which your report refers hadn’t done their homework and was unaware of the original county council site. The suggestion I heard from one campaigner (that it had been established just to collect email addresses for the local Conservatives) I have rebutted as being out of keeping with Mrs Trevelyan’s new style of politics.
However this second site is undoubtedly confusing for campaigners and the public alike (the last thing the new chair would want) so I expect she will have it taken down at once.
Finally, in case some readers have not heard, the county council’s campaign has attracted just over £7m of funding from the government’s BDUK fund, matched by a further £7m from Northumberland County Council.
This amount has since been topped up by other bodies including DEFRA and additional funding is being sought from Europe.
Altogether these contributions, along with the significant investment being made by commercial operators, will help to achieve significant progress by next year in meeting the government’s target – 90 per cent coverage of the county at superfast broadband speeds of 24 Mb/sec and the remaining 10 per cent with at least 2Mb/sec.
As Mrs Trevelyan said: “Adequate investment in broadband infrastructure is so important”. It should be above party political jockeying for credit.
An excellent start has been made and, now that Mrs Trevelyan has joined the lead councillors, the lead officers and the 13,000 signatories, she will be able to get herself fully and accurately briefed and we can move forward together to ensure delivery and extension of this essential project.
Scotland and North East much better together
ALEX Salmond must be mad if he thinks the North East of England would benefit from the United Kingdom being broken up and Scotland going its own way.
We are the only region of the UK with a trade surplus, and a large amount of that trade is with Scotland. However, there is still real potential for further cross-border trade in future, to the benefit of both Scotland and the North East.
The one thing above all others that is holding back the flow of investment between Scotland and the North East is, as we Liberal Democrats will not tire of saying until something is done about it, infrastructure.
We badly need the A1 to be dualled and we need to make better use of our ports.
The needed investment will only come if there is a strong case put forward by businesses on both sides of the border and, crucially, if there is sustained political pressure on both sides of the border as well.
The UK government is far more likely to listen to North East and Scottish politicians if they speak with one loud, clear voice. Destroy the Union and that voice becomes a feeble whisper.
Council Executive Member
Thanks for support
MANY thanks everyone who came to the Macmillan coffee morning at Cornhill Village Shop. A fantastic £2843.15 was raised on the day for this worthy cause. This is our tenth year at Cornhill Shop and we wanted to have ten fundraising events and try and raise £10,000.
With the money raised at the coffee morning we now have a massive ongoing total of £10,835.00 and still have two events to go. Well done to everyone involved and many thanks for your continued support. It is greatly appreciated.
Cornhill Village Shop
& Coffee Shop
I’D like to pass on my thanks and gratitude to all of my family and friends for their support and generous sponsorship given to me when I recently ran the Great North Run.
I completed the run in two hours 41 minutes, managing to raise £612.50 for The Great North Air Ambulance in the process.
The Old Farmhouse
(formerly from Cornwall