Coffee House


15 April 2012

It did not take long. Last month, Matt Ridley argued in a Spectator cover story that the wind farm agenda is in effect dead, having collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. The only question is when our ministers would realise. In an interview with the Sunday Times (£), climate change minister Greg Barker admits that his department has adopted an ‘unbalanced’ approach to wind farms and will now look at other options. ‘Far from wanting thousands more, actually for most of the wind we need… they are either being built, being developed or in planning. The notion that there’s some new wave of wind [farms] is somewhat exaggerated.’

Indeed, the phrase ‘somewhat exaggerated’ applies to the case for wind farms itself. There are a staggering 3,500 wind turbines in Britain, what to do with them all? Ridley had this suggestion:

‘It would be a shame for them all to be dismantled. The biggest one should remain, like a crane on an abandoned quay, for future generations to marvel at. They will never be an efficient way to generate power. But there can be no better monument to the folly of mankind.’

To Ridley, this was – at root – an intellectual error. An example of how the establishment, and entire government machine, can sponsor something that makes no economic or environmental sense – but no one dares point this out, because the cause is seen as noble. He has generously sponsored the £8,500 Ridley Award for essays that expose similar environmental fallacies and entries close on 30 June. We’ve had plenty of brilliant entries so far – but keep them coming. Click here to find out more.

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Show comments
  • coralations

    Please help by signing a petition against an industrial wind park in one of the most ecologically sensitive spots left on this small Caribbean island….Thank you..

  • Alan

    For the purposes of the Ribley Award will it be acceptable to use a non de plume?

  • Ken Brown

    Daniel Maris

    Thanks for this! Glad to read your expression of support for Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) technology. You are absolutely right about the urgent need for investment in R and D in this potentially revolutionary energy source. You might also agree about the need for much wider public awareness of its promise and of the scientific respectability that it has been accorded recently by physicists from NASA, CERN and MIT and a number of other world class universities. Had it not been for time constraints, I might have expressed myself more fully, as follows:

    By the time wind power has been developed (at staggering cost and if ever) to the point where it is no longer up to 90% reliant on back-up from conventional fossil fuel generators, LENR might well be a commercially viable competitor – and overwhelmingly so, given the worldwide abundance of elements like nickel, hydrogen and carbon and the tiny quantities needed to generate large amounts of energy. Indeed, if LENR technology fails to prove itself, it will almost certainly be for lack of government research funding, continuing opposition from vested interests and the indifference of most of the mainstream media and politicians.

  • daniel maris

    Ken Brown –

    I am a fan of LENR as well and we should be piling money into research in that area. But NASA don’t have a model ready for commercialisation and that may be some years away. We can’t bet our energy policy on a favourable outcome for LENR.

    But certainly if LENR is commercialised then virtually all other energy sources will become obsolete.

  • Ken Brown

    Have a look at the following:

    Wind farms are obsolete!

  • daniel maris

    Dominic –

    If your bill tripled, there’s something wrong with your bill or your usage.

  • daniel maris

    Oldtimer –

    I do agree there is a problem with the way wind energy has been introduced in this country.

    It is wrong that big landowners should be the principal beneficiaries of wind turbines. The local community should have a slice of the action most definitely with people in the surrounding areas receiving a direct annual payment (modest but no doubt welcome). Also, as in Germany, we should make it easy for people to band together to develop green energy resources and benefit from the income.

  • daniel maris

    I am not indulging in an ad hominem argument but when someone is so passionate about a subject, it’s interesting to know where the passion comes from.

    The plebian-sounding “Matt Ridley” is actually the Eton-educated “Matthew White Ridley, 5th Viscount Ridley”.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Ridley was non-executive chairman of Northern Rock from 2004 to 2007, earning £300,000 a year…having joined the board in 1994. His father had been chairman from 1987 to 1992 and sat on the board for 30 years.”

    And again:

    “Ridley has expressed strong criticism of the science of climate change and its conclusions.”

    Well he is not alone in being somewhat sceptical about climate change claims, but I think that has led him to utter some wild nonsense about wind energy which is actually simply a cheap form of clean energy produced within our country – something that is highly desirable whether or no AGW is real.

    I am afraid that with people like him I always suspect it’s something to do with the view from their breakfast table…maybe he sees the blades turning on some blue remembered hill and doesn’t like what he sees.

    Is Ridley right or simply riled? The two are not synonymous.

  • daniel maris

    Big Bert,

    No energy source is free of environmental impact. But visual intrusion is a fairly minor price to pay for cheap and dependable energy. Personally I find wind turbines a very graceful and inspiring sight, though I accept not everyone has to agree with my aesthetic judgement. I find them far superior to rather sinister looking nuclear plants, or the great mass of coal power stations, or oil/gas terminals that blight our coasts.

  • Dominic

    Duh! We’re already paying for these wind farms.


    Check you’re electric bill this year versus last year versus the year before.

    Validate. Now check your electric consumption.

    Net net mine tripled.

    Now you know what “paying for wind farms means.”

  • Big bert

    Today – according to the DECC RESTATS database:
    There are 384 wind farms operational
    There are another 342 with planning permission that are under construction/about to be built.

    There are another 340 applications submitted already.

    1066 in total – and that is ON SHORE WIND FARMS – not turbines

    God help us all. We are going to be ruining our finest landscape very quickly and paying for this folly for the rest of our lives.
    The subsidy scrum for wind farms and single turbines needs to be stopped now.

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