Interesting conversation last night with Anna Stanford, head of communications at RES, who I met at the Inbuilt birthday party last night. RES are behind the Wadlow windfarm development, which is local to me and which had been stalled in interminable planning negotiations.
I asked her why RES didn’t offer some sort of financial inducement to the locals in order to get them onside. She said it was not possible because it would be regarded as bribery: the planning system expressly forbids it — or at least I think that was the gist of what she was saying. Technically, it would be feasible, for a 13 unit windfarm, such as the Wadlow one, would produce far more power than the surrounding parishes would ever need, and the financial model would still stack up because wind energy, albeit in its subsidised form, is very profitable and it would still be profitable if, say, 10% of the profit, or the power drawn from one of the turbines, was used to pay the electricity bills of homes within a mile or so.
There are various models you could work on to make it fair: for instance if you were within 1000m, you would get all your electricity paid for up to a certain amount, and if you were within 2000m you would get 50%. And so on. That way the community wouldn’t just have a windfarm dumped on them, which is what the system demands at present, but rather it could sell its wind energy potential on the open market.
The reason this can’t be done essentially boils down to a problem with definitions of ownership. No one can own wind energy — it’s a common good. But surely if organisations like RES are able to obtain rights to harvest some of this energy, they should pay compensation to anyone that they might inconvenience along the way.
All things being equal, most parishes would probably rather not pay host to a windfarm built on an industrial scale, so why shouldn’t the ones that do receive some benefit?
Meanwhile, here is an image of part of a wind farm I came across in Lanjaron in Spain two weeks ago. It’s located on the edge of the Sierra Nevada, easily visible on the road between Granada and the Med. Anyone who says a windfarm is an eyesore ought to go view this one: it is simply stunning. The road into Lanjaron weaves its way around numerous hairpins and it zigzags around several of the giant turbines. At one point you appear to be travelling through the blades themselves: they seem unbelievably close and powerful. For a brief moment, you can almost dream that the future may be benign afterall.