| 12.7°C Dublin

Wind Farms: The answer is not blowing in the wind

Close

The National Trust this month launched a blistering attack on wind farms, calling them a "public menace" and a "blight" on the British landscape.

It's an astonishing outburst from the agency responsible for protecting the country's heritage, which was once a fan of wind energy. But it's just the latest in the UK against 'inefficient' on-shore turbines.

In February, more than 100 Tory MPs wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron, demanding that £400m a year worth of subsidies to the wind industry be 'dramatically cut'.

They also called for planning laws to be 'tightened' so local people have a better chance of standing up to developers.

Mr Cameron agreed, promising to give communities a greater say on whether they should be built.

Similar moves are afoot in Australia, where new rules will give residents within 1.25 miles a veto over new wind plants, after complaints about noise and stress.

And last week in the US, President Obama introduced guidelines about where wind turbines can be located to protect wildlife and help to save the 500,000-plus birds shredded by them each year.

But here in Ireland, vast swathes of our most beautiful scenery are being lost to these huge, environment-wrecking structures yet nobody within the political elite is shouting "stop".

Not so long ago, I got a knock on my door from a developer who had plans to put up a dozen 400ft wind turbines in the gorgeous valley we are lucky enough to call home.

I do my bit for the planet as much as the next person, so my knee-jerk reaction was to say fire ahead, then pack up and leave.

But I did my research first and discovered that wind farms are a bit like politicians: they promise much but deliver very little.

Hopelessly unreliable (check out the wind graph on Eirgrid's website for proof of that), they produce only patchy amounts of electricity, and do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.

In fact, a new Dutch study shows that wind farms could actually produce more CO2 than gas-fired stations because of the need for constant back-up facilities.

After all, we can't rely on the vagaries of fresh air to keep life- support machines switched on in hospitals or air-traffic control computers working to maintain safe skies.

But apart from their practical inadequacies, wind farms can destroy quality of life, from the mind-bending flicker they cast across the landscape to their unbearable hum.

Luckily, we discovered all of this before it was too late and, thanks to a brilliant community campaign, managed to run the hot-air brigade out of town.

Naturally, we're heartbroken for the developer who missed out on his subsidies, but he drove a gas-guzzling jeep, so he clearly wasn't that hard up, or concerned about the planet.

Sadly, many other residents of rural Ireland, duped by phoney claims of cheap electricity and jobs, are not so lucky.

You can be sure the developers won't come calling to millionaire homes on Killiney Hill or Howth Head, the sort of places wind turbines really should be, as Dublin eats up the bulk of our electricity.

But, if they ever do, you'll hear all about the downside of wind energy then.

Weekend Magazine