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The power of wind:not strong enough for some

What on earth is wrong with wind power? Nothing, says NCE's editor, Antony Oliver

For some bizarre reason that I really don't understand, a huge number of people in the UK still harbour a fanatical hatred towards the humble wind turbine.

The mention of harnessing the power of the wind to generate electricity seems to enrage opponents and bring a barrage of statistics about how little the wind blows in the UK and how inefficient such devices really are.

The government's announcement this week for a third round of offshore wind farm leasing options around the UK coastline is therefore guaranteed to attract much wrath.

While personally I love the sight of wind turbines and see them as fascinating additions to the landscape, I can understand the fierce NIMBY objections to onshore windfarms.

But offshore? What can there possibly be to object to? Well lots apparently. Of course, there are similar "fundamental" objections to so many other renewable or "non-traditional" forms of power generation.

The objections seem to stem from the fact that none are the complete panacea or free energy replacement for our existing "dirty" technologies. And as such, we so often hear, these alternatives simply are not worth upsetting the status quo for.

Certainly wind turbines are not as efficient or consistent as the current fossil fuel burning or nuclear powered electricity generating alternatives. And wave power is in its infancy, solar power is expensive, tidal power has major environmental and cost issues to overcome and local generation is so far not as reliable as central generation.

But hang on a minute, what is everybody so afraid of? Why does it have to be all or nothing? And if, as the government's consultation paper points out, "offshore wind is presently commercially viable", what's the problem?

Like it or not, at the heart of the government's strategy is a very stiff target of a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, starting with a 20% cut by 2020. And to help meet this our challenge is to ensure that by 2020, 20% of the electricity generated across target Europe is renewable.

So even if you are still in climate change denial, the "something for nothing", avoidance of wasting precious natural resources argument is surely compelling. Let's get on with bolstering our renewable armoury.

The proposed Severn Estuary tidal scheme has the potential to provide 5% of total UK electricity demand reliably and with no emissions. Why shouldn’t we add to this with a huge raft of wind generation capacity to make use of the free wind resource when it is there?

The need for fossil fuels and nuclear power will not disappear overnight. But if we are bold and ignore the sceptics, the UK can reduce its reliance on “old technologies” and take a lead role in developing the new.

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