Paul McIntosh says:
Windy Weekend (A Report on the Tolpuddle WindFarm Meeting)

Category: Dorset Energized News, Wind Power

Last weekend was spent gaining a direct insight into the rather polarizing and fractious debate around Wind Turbines in Swanage and Tolpuddle [at the WindFarm Meeting on Saturday 12th January 2013 at the Tolpuddle Village Hall].

It started with a question and answer session at a well attended meeting headed by the ever articulate and lucid Oliver Letwin in Tolpuddle Village Hall on Saturday; followed by a rather bracing Sunday morning on Swanage sea front. Although both events had their energies originating from the ‘anti’ side of the spectrum, both had their supporters, with Swanage in particular seeing a well organised ‘pro’ counter demonstration, challenging the challengers by their own event title.

The Tolpuddle event, organised in part by Tolpuddle Against INdustrial Turbines (TAINT) was not as hostile as one might have assumed, thanks in part to Oliver Letwins ability to hold the views of the agitated protesters in his well organised tones. Perhaps it was also due to the rather early start (9.30am) although the hall was completely packed. He did come down on the side of opposition to the application, on the principle of scale, which some might think to be a rather clever ploy as he did highlight his general support for Wind Power as part of a future energy mix, including Nuclear of which he is a supporter. My interpretation was that he left room for the proposals to be scaled down to be more acceptable to the Dorset Landscape, a view which I am a little sympathetic view since seeing a presentation by land rights campaigner Alistair McIntosh (no relation) who asked some difficult questions of the environment movement as to the impact of very large turbines on the Scottish landscape.

The meeting benefited, although the majority of attendees might disagree, with the presence of Ampair chief executive David Sharman. Ampair, based in Milborne St Andrew of all places, is the UKs oldest Wind Turbine manufacturer. David also has a local connection and no ‘declaration of interest’ apart from a rather tenuous one suggested by a member of the audience that he would benefit from the overall market benefit to his product. An interesting exchange was had between Mr Sharman and Letwin, in particular Letwin being asked to declare his overall support for Wind as part of the mix, as detailed in the recent 2020 Conservative report which is suggesting future policy approaches to a Conservative Government post 2015. Also more importantly he pulled out Letwins personal view that their should be a form of national guidance as to what are the most suitable, or rather what are the most unsuitable, sites for Wind Turbines in the UK. He stated at the moment this was his personal view, but in a few months time this might become a Cabinet view. This raises a potentially interesting dichotomy which Mr Sharman pressed him about, a central planning type approach would go against the the broad thrust of a market driven planning system and the policy of localism, mainstays of current Coalition policy. Letwin seemed convinced that the current planning system rules, at any rate, would be able to reject the application on valid grounds. I suspect he has had discussions with the local authority, as he delivered this statement with some weight.

Letwin also reiterated his faith that the increasing flexibility of the Grid to respond to intermittent sources of energy such as Wind (typically called the Smart Grid) including using electric cars as ‘storage batteries’ would mitigate concerns over efficiencies of renewables. Although some might disagree with his politics Letwin does read around enough to formulate his own views and reasoned arguments. I asked a question concerning community ownership and perhaps the community could take up the responsibility for generating as much energy as they can locally, which Letwin deftly took up using the example of community owned shops. Their was no mutterings that I could hear against this type of proposal, but neither was their rampant enthusiasm. I was left thinking that if only this kind of enthusiasm, energy and action could be harnessed to work on solutions, rather than simply a blanket ‘No’, then we might have a better future.

The demonstration in Swanage was a more heartening affair for me, with the reassuring prescence of well prepared counter-protesters from the local Greenpeace and Transition Town groups and other enthusiastic activists. I think it as fair to say that the originators of the ‘anti’ protest were somewhat bemused to have such a vocal repost, myself and a friend had several interesting and reasoned conversations with our opposite numbers and there was some press coverage although with the authority of being the originators of the event, the ‘anti’ group tended to get the top paragraph quotes and headline, although the Guardian of course was a bit more sympathetic.

The overall musing from both events was again somewhat astonishment at the sheer voracity of some of the opposition, and how it links to, imperceptibly at times, frustrations over power and ownership of land (Crown Estate and private landowners), subsidisation arguments (despite greater subsidies elsewhere in the energy market) and despite the obvious effects of the industrialised agricultural system over the last 100 years, aesthetic concerns over the landscape. You cannot help thinking that their is a psychological component buried deep underneath all this. Which indeed puzzles me still further, as those who have gained the most in the relatively cheap fossil fuel energy, post war economy, tend to be of the generation who make up the bulk of the ‘anti’ protesters…. surely a few dots on the horizon is a small price to pay so that those since born have the same?

Links for further reading:

TAINT: http://www.taint.org.uk

BBC News article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-20992001

AMPAIR: www.ampair.com

Guardian Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/14/pro-wind-protesters-offshore-windfarm

6Comments | Post your own comment

  • vince adams comments:
    "I have just read some of the comments on the website and I am sorry that we just don’t appear to be making any headway with education about wind turbines.
    Please Mary worry not your relatives with autistic children will not hear the turbines from nearly a kilometre away, indeed the children may even love the sight of the new Windmills. Not so long ago almost every major Town in England had windmills really close to their centres, why… because that was were they milled the corn. It was food from wind and now its energy from wind.
    Dear Mr Carmichael none of your points are valid. The CO2 emmisions are zero and the payback of carbon in production takes an average of 18/24 months. Compare that with Power Stations and oh by the way how many years and where will Nuclear Fuel go.
    The old chestnut about not creating on-going good energy is nonsense… why do you think the World is investing in them when you say its so inefficient, maybe you have to ask yourself some questions before making statements to rubbish this wonderful new clean free energy!!!
    Yours in the hope we can slowly but surely change your thinking by giving proper, true responses to your comments.
    Finally Bill I have some sympathy with your comments. Good people and true have been fed fairy tales that they believe to be true, now is the time to help to breakdown these ridiculous barriers and realise that we are all in the same boat. "

    February 8, 2013 a 6:44 pm

  • Anna Celeste Watson comments:
    "We must take everyone’s views into consideration but I do get a bit disappointed to hear the same old arguments over and over on every post about windpower, as they do sometimes seem perhaps a little narrow minded and selfish. I do agree with B M Carmichael though that windpower is just one option and there are no goodies or baddies here, but I would love to see the same people who hate wind turbines show their passion in a more positive way (or at least readdress the balance of their protest) to engage with and promote all the other more accessible forms of renewable energy that are less emotive, and of course took more steps to save energy in the first place : ) "
    February 7, 2013 a 12:54 pm

  • B M Carmichael comments:
    "the tragedy is this, it is easy to decide that people who are anti windfarms are anti renewable energy, may be it gives comfort to those who accept wind power blindly as the solution, you will find if you really bothered to, that in fact most people who are anti windfarms are pro renewable energy, they are just against windfarms and other inefficient and damaging renewables. windfarms currently globally cause CO2 to be produced, because they make the power station cycle in power, because wind energy is so intermittent and unreliable. There are many reasons why people do not favour windfarms, there is so much information out there to find out why, but dont be lazy, and self satisfied, dont just think that people who are anti windfarms are out of the ark, they may well be better informed than you, and that is why they have chosen to feel as they do about windfarms. Sorry if this offends. Just think, and question why? It is not as simple as you would like it to be, have a real challenge try and find out why! "
    February 7, 2013 a 12:46 pm

  • mary comments:
    "your small dots on the horizon are less than 900 metres from my relatives home, they have children who are severely autistic who are hyper sensitve to sound, one of whom also suffers from epilepsy. Do you wonder why they might be amongst those desperately unhappy at the thought of having the wind farm so near to them. A child who is severely autistic and has severely challenging behaviour as well has enough to cope with, the World is a baffling place for them, and sometimes a very cruel one. "
    February 7, 2013 a 12:22 pm

  • Bill comments:
    "Ampair chap did not indear himself when he said that the anti windies were all incomers, that rather disgraced anything he further said! Not a clever move! Perhaps it would make more sense in the first place if windfarms were put in places that were the least sensitive and less likely to cause protest, build them away from peoples homes, away from coastal areas that depend on tourism to make their bread and butter, remember Dorsets average wage is less than the national average to start off with we can’t afford to shoot ourselves in the foot can we! To have a strategic Government plan that works out the best places where to put the windfarms in the first place would probably have saved alot of grief and upset. I think you are not on the right track about the psyche regarding the antis though, I know of people who have probably been greenpeace members than some of us have been alive, who have probably been pro renewables likewise, and they are immensely worried by the windfarms impacting on humans, because it lessens the popularity of wind farms in the first place, making people anti. It would be sensible to try and make people happy in the first place would nt it! "
    February 7, 2013 a 12:11 pm

  • Vince Adams comments:
    "Paul what a great report. What really strikes me is that if the protestors could only take your attitude and talk things out, come to a consensus, the World be be such a better place.
    Thanks for your blog, I am looking forward to the next round and will try to be there. My last walk was as a student marching from Aldermaston to London – people can still make a difference. "

    January 23, 2013 a 2:20 pm

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