Wednesday, August 22, 2007

David Howarth up a 65m wind turbine

Focus on King's Hedges reports that David Howarth, the Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, and a local councillor climbed a 65m high wind turbine in Swaffham last weekend. It also says that, as part of the parliamentary committee scrutinising the draft Climate Change Bill ,David has been looking into renewable energy in the UK.

And he was impressed:
“What surprised me the most was how quiet the turbine was. From just 200 yards away the blades could no longer be heard and closer in much of the noise was masked by the rustling of leaves on neighbouring trees.

“I was also impressed by the amount of electricity produced by the turbine. The two turbines at Swaffham produce enough energy over the year to power the entire town."
Are things really that simple? A few turbines can add interest to the landscape, but I wouldn't thank you if you wanted to install them in the South Shropshire hills. And when they represent the wholesale industrialisation of a remote rural landscape, as in the Outer Hebrides, then they can be an environmental outrage.

Others profess to love the things, but is really an aesthetic judgement? Isn't it really because they see turbines as an environmental necessity or as a symbol of the future?

I suspect our reaction to wind turbines will change over time. In the 1930s there was an outcry against electricity pylons in attractive landscapes. Today, we tend to shrug and accept them, if we notice them at all.

And just as some go out of their way to hymn the beauties of wind turbines, so there were those in the 1930s who professed to love pylons. The group of poets around W. H. Auden was even known as the "Pylon Poets".

Stephen Spender writes:
Now over those small hills
they built the concrete
that trails black wire
Pylons those pillars
Bare like nude, giant girls
that have no secret.

But far above and far
as site endures
Like whips of anger
With lightning's danger
There runs the quick
perspective of the future.
Thanks to Friends of the Lake District for those verses. That page also has some information on modern-day efforts to remove high-voltage wires from the landscape.

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