The Montrose facility operated by GlaxoSmithKline has proposed installing two large wind turbines in order to help make the plant self-sufficient in electricity. However there is a growing opposition to the scheme, on what seems to be the most spurious of grounds.
There complaints include the usual suspects – noise (these will be especially designed to be quiet), visual intrusion (in an industrial port area?), the effect on house values (the evidence is mixed, with some prices actually going up) and even the alleged fact that they don’t work. Some have even tried to claim that you get the Feed-In tariff even when they don’t turn. We’ve also had a few new ones, including what happens to the foundations when Glaxo leaves Montrose (presumably the same as will happen to the foundations of all the other big buildings and quays at the port), and why don’t they locate the turbines at sea and connect a cable into their plant (because it would cost so much it would actually be cheaper to buy all the houses in Ferryden).
Well, the fact is that they do work, and although they don’t turn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they do provide electricity which is free from emissions. Payments are made on the amount of energy generated, so if a turbine doesn’t work, the owner doesn’t get paid – that’s why a test mast is usually put up for 12 months to test the wind strength.
When I was at Conference last week, I saw the stand of the John Muir Trust, there to protest against wind turbines, amongst other issues. However, few turbines are planned in the UK in the sort of wildernesses that John Muir sought to protect. Our countryside, unlike that in the United States, is the product of thousands of years of intervention by man – even areas thought of as wild, such as Dartmoor in Devon are really the product of bronze age man burning down the trees to create farmland. The enclosure acts of the late 18th century onwards really created the quilted style countryside we are used to today.
As I have mentioned before, we have demanding targets set by a Government which was elected with a massive mandate only a few months ago. If we are to have any chance at meeting these targets, we urgently need these sorts of developments at as many of our major industrial users as quickly as possible.
Ultimately, we need more of these wind turbines, although obviously they arnt going to be the answer to all our problems. Placing them in industrial areas like Montrose Port is the best place for them – especially as their energy can be used locally, instead of being wasted through transmission. However, even if they are placed in the countryside, this is preferable to the alternative – either more fossil fuel power stations, or power cuts.