The Opposers

Though this page was created for the specific case of Frodsham Wind Farm, more material is added in smaller font, so that this page can become more generally applicable, now that that Frodsham Wind Farm has been agreed.

A campaign has begun to scupper the wind farm application on Frodsham Marshes, called 'Residents Against Windfarms'. They have been active since autumn 2009, with the local press and MP supporting them. They put out a leaflet in shops, worked in the press, and put up a stall at the meeting on 12th March 2010 called by Frodsham Town Council to discuss the wind farm. They then put out another leaflet.

The majority experience shows that people become quite happy with wind turbines installed near them. See, which shows that people who live near wind turbines tend to find they're less intrusive than they expected.

RAW Leaflet

The style of their argument: Most of what they have been saying has been either factually incorrect or misleading in its implications, and designed to generate fears, most of which are groundless. Some of the individuals assure us they support wind power "but not here" - but then some RAW people (including some of those who had just claimed support for wind power) then try to show how useless wind power is. One wonders about their consistency.

The substance of their argument:

The anti-wind campaign has produced a leaflet with reasons against. Many of the reasons are weak or irrelevant. The whole leaflet is analysed in the following table:

Analysis of the Anti-Frodsham-Windfarm Leaflet
Statement Value Reason for that Value Comment
"Windfarms are fine in principle. They could provide a proportion of our national electrical energy needs and they probably make sense in offshore locations. However Peel's proposal for Frodsham and Helsby Marshes is unacceptable because:" Sounds reasonable. Let's continue and find our what their reasons are ... -
"These turbines are massive structures (see graphic on reverse); higher than the viewpoint on Frodsham Hill and higher than Weston Point Power Station Chimney." So what! They might be taller than the chimneys, but they're shorter than the column of smoke and much, much narrower. Also, their 'graphic' shows the blade pointing straight up to maximum height. We don't usually see them thus. When they turn we don't get this max-height effect. At rest, wind turbines often park with the blade pointing down and out to sides, not up. Besides, why is height a bad thing in itself? If people worry about visual impact, that's what the photomontages are for. The Eiffel tower is twice as tall, but it doesn't bother me.

Recently, I (AB) looked out of my window and thought, "Yes it would make a difference to the view. I'd see these tall things turning." Then I asked myself, "Would I get used to it?" "Yes, I would get used to it!"

"Their flickering presence will dominate our daily lives and ..." Wrong implication!
Very rare event.
'Flicker' is a technical term; it's caused by the blades passing in front of the sun - or, rather, the sun going down behind the blades. From the point of view of anyone in Frodsham or Helsby, the sun needs to be both low and to the north. This is something that can be exactly calculated (because the movement of the sun is 100% predictable), and Peel should have a map showing the area that cold be affected by flicker.

Its compeltely wrong to imply it'll affect many houses, and even more wrong to suggest it would "dominate our lives": very few people, very few days a year, for a very short time, and not when cloudy! Very rare if ever.

Do not cars and trucks through Frodsham and Helsby dominate our daily lives far more?

"... and affect businesses and tourism." Not necessarily! At Swaffam village, tourism actually increased, because the villagers and wind company made it a tourist attraction. Frodsham people and Peel could do the same. Frodsham & Helsby are hardly grand tourist centres now, and could do with this stimulation!
Come on, Frodsham & Helsby: grab this opportunity to get on the map: one of the few lowland windfarms is coming your way! Make best use of it.
Let's exercise a bit of imagination! This windfarm is a great opportunity.
"Wind turbines make a very low pitched noise which will be particularly noticeable at night and may be focused by the hill. We suffer enough as it is from motorway noise." Wrong! Peel are legally required to carry out a noise study and show that the farm won't exceed agreed limits. The science is pretty well established. If it did turn out there was something unexpected, the legal right would be with the residents. Peel would have to fix the problem.

Out of 254 wind farms in the UK, this has happened three times (for example, a short-term problem caused by a gearbox that failed and made a grinding noise for half a day before it was shut down).

Their noise will be drowned by far-worse motorway noise. 'White' noise from car tyres is the really obtrusive, annoying noise. Low-frequency noise is much less disturbing. Why haven't the anti-wind people campaigned against traffic noise from the motorway? They have let it increase over the years without a murmur. Why do they pick on wind turbine noise, and ignore the worse traffic noise?
"In Scotland this windfarm would not be permitted because Scotland has a planning policy which prohibits wind turbines within 2km of human habitation." Irrelevant!
Also factually wrong.
Irrelevant because that policy is not in force in England. Scotland has huge tracts of land far from human habitation (Highlands and Southern Uplands) and that policy may be appropriate there, in that it helps to give preference to sites away from habitation. England does not have such huge tracts of land. So that policy would be inappropriate - unless one wanted to completely annihilate wind-power, of course.

Factually wrong in even in Scotland, in that the planning guidelines say that a windfarm more than 2 km from a settlement (not a habitation) should normally be approved. The normal rule is that turbines should be 750 metres from a dwelling, or 500 metres if the inhabitants are compensated. I haven't seen the new plans, but it'd be pretty hard to get that close to Frodsham if they were trying. Farms between 2 km and 750 metres should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"The maximum instantaneous capacity of this windfarm may be in excess of 50MW as Peel claim but, due to varying wind speeds, the average output over a year will be nearer 15MW." So what! The '50MW' (actually 60MW) refers to the maximum possible output (during maximum wind speed), not the main designed load. Averaged over all wind speeds, wind turbines deliver about one third of their maximum rating. They are designed for peak efficiency at this duty. Do anti-wind people run their cars flat out, with accelerator pressed to the floor all the time? Of course not. It would be bad for the car engine - and most machinery - to do that. Similarly with wind turbines.
"Peel's claim that it will power 30,000 households omits the requirements of the businesses, industry and services that go to make up a community." So what!
Peel's actual wording is "generate enough electricity to meet the annual electricity needs of around 30,000 homes for the next 25 years". That statement just gives an idea of the amount of power, wherever it goes.
"This windfarm will contribute only a tiny proportion of Cheshire's total energy (including transport, heating, etc) needs." Of course!
But hardly relevant.
To lump together electricity, transport, heating etc. for the whole of Cheshire gives a huge energy need, which must be met by various sources.
The windfarm will contribute one quarter of CWAC's target for renewable energy. Not a "tiny proportion".
As my mother used to say (and a main brand puts it), "Every little helps"! Wind power is part of the mix. It is never claimed to be the total source of electricity, let alone all energy needs.
Many anti-wind people I hear (e.g. Nick Griffiths, Nigel Lawson, Roger Hemley) play up nuclear power. Nuclear power is no panacea.

If ever (in emergency) our other supplies were, for some reason, cut off, then our wind turbines could be very useful, since they provide some local power for essential local needs. Remember that UK has an excellent wind regime.

"Windfarms are highly subsidised compared to all other methods of electricity generation." Wrong!
so what!
It is a misconception that windfarms are highly subsidised. There are no direct capital subsidies for building onshore wind farms. Once a wind farm is operational, the company receives a small extra for the electricity they sell because of the Renewable Obligation Scheme and, to a certain extent, from the Climate Change levy, which have been put in place to try to wean our economy off total dependence on fossil fuels. This applies to ALL forms of renewable energy. We all pay about 5% more for electricity as a result of it - not a huge amount.

But even if it were subsidised, So What! New technologies need subsidy. Nuclear received huge subsidies via various routes when it was new, so why should not renewable energies? Wind power needs to be helped down its learning curve (click for explanation of learning curve).
"It is sited entirely within the Green Belt. Wind turbines are extremely rare in the Green Belt and the Aston windfarm proposal was rejected rpimarily because it was in the Green Belt. The proposed Ince incinerator is not in the Green Belt." Irrelevant! Wind turbines are in fact allowed in Green Belt. As the quotation actually admits, there are wind farms in Green Belt. The Aston windfarm was rejected for a number of reasons, and it was a completely different case: it was on a hill opposite Frodsham. I have long believed that the Frodsham Marshes is a good place for wind turbines; I had not 'long believed' that Aston was a good place.
Moreover, perhaps wind turbines on Frodsham Marshes is a good way to prevent future buildings there (in event that Green Belt status changes)?
They cannot have it both ways: if they want wind turbines away from habitation, they must allow them in Green Belt.
"In addition the Marshes provide an important breathing space between the large-scale industry at Ellesmere Port and Ince, and that at Runcorn and Widnes." Probably
the most
they make.
But what do they mean by 'important breathing space' (such that the wind turbines would destroy it)? We need to know what functions such a 'breathing space' fulfils, so that proper regard can be taken of this - concreting-over? wildlife?. Wind turbine towers are not as bulky as buildings, and a wide gap has been left for the route birds take to fly inland.
"They [Frodsham Marshes] also provide an important buffer zone for the internationally-protected wildlife on the Mersey Estuary, and are home to protected species like the water vole." Irrelevant! Not sure that water voles will be much disturbed by wind turbines! Most (all?) birds will still live there quite happily.
(Voles: I understand that the concern is that construction work will block and flood the ditches where the voles live. Peel have told me that this will not occur because they will bridge the ditches - but it's worth the Planning Authority ensuring legally that Peel protect the vole habitat.)

Impact on wildlife is another thing that is Peel are legally required to check and report on before permission can be granted.

Notice that the anti-wind people's erstwhile concern about bird deaths has been quietly dropped. A few years they shouted about the blades killing birds, and that seemed to scare planning committees. But it has been largely disproved: average 1.5 birds killed per turbine in 25 years if birds take no avoiding action. Planes, cars and cats kill far, far more birds; do anti-wind people advocate stopping planes, cars and cat-ownership? So why were they so concerned about bird deaths from wind turbines?
Academic research suggests that wind power kills fewer birds per unit of energy produced than fossil fuels. The data is sketchy, but it seems like coal power is about ten times as bad for bird life.
"The disturbance of canal dredgings which are contaminated with chemical plant effluent." Rather irrelevant! These have already been disturbed when dredged from the Manchester Ship Canal and dumped in the drainage lagoons, from which water runs off.
"The balance between the carbon saved during the operation of windfarms and the carbon released during their construction (which in this case will involve deep piling and major peat disturbance)." Rather irrelevant! It is not a matter of 'balance' but of 'pay back' period, in which the amount of electricity generated first exceeds the total amount of energy used in construction, installation, operation etc.
I understand that wind turbines 'pay back' in around 6 months the energy expended (total energy in operation, construction, installation, including the cement for the concrete footings). This is phenomenal! Even if the Peel installation pays back at half this rate, that still leaves 24 years of largely carbon-free electricity.
(I have been told by an anti-wind person, but cannot check, that when peat is disturbed the carbon payback period increases to 3 years; but I don't know of any peat on Frodsham Marshes, and even if there is some underneath, narrow piling will disturb very little. Even with 3 years payback, that still leaves 22 years of carbon-free electricity.)
If they are concerned with carbon 'balance' (or pay back), why are so many anti-wind people in favour of nuclear? (e.g. Nick Griffin, Nigel Lawson)
"The need to operate conventional power stations on 'hot standby' to take over when there is no wind." Exaggeration! Not much of a problem. Nobody suggests wind should contribute all our power. Two possible problems:
1. Keeping the right amount of power available? Wind turbines produce power for 80% of their time, even if not maximally. Periods of no-wind are usually forecastable with enough time to get the grid to react. Usually if wind ceases to blow one place it blows elsewhere.
2. Sudden drops in power? Very rarely does a good wind suddenly drop to, and stay at, zero. In any case, operators of the grid can easily deal with sudden drops and surges in demand and supply: they just drop voltage. (Drop from 240 to 230 caters for sudden 10% reduction in power).
"Interference with Liverpool John Lennon Airport radar." Not a problem. Aircraft very seldom land and take off across that part of the Mersey (runways are east-west). Where there is a problem, the wind energy company put in at their own expense additional radar to remove the blackspots. If these anti-wind people are concerned about carbon reduction, as their piece above suggests, then should they not welcome a constraint on Liverpool Airport?

It seems people can think of dozens of reasons why something *might* be a problem - and even when it turns out that none of them are, they still have lingering doubts. I think it helps to point out that we have a very strict planning permission system (as anyone who's ever tried to build an extension will know). Peel have to get the facts straight in their application.

(Page originally generated by Andrew Basden, but then modified by comments from others.)

Last updated: 6 April 2010. 12 September 2013 three faults of wind-opposers.