A few days ago I was crossing e-swords on a newspaper website with wind turbine enthusiasts. The debate came up because the government is said to be thinking about reducing the subsidies offered to those who erect the giant windmills.
My problem with wind turbines is that they are intermittent at the best of times and, because you can’t rely on the electricity they generate, you still have to have conventional gas-fired power stations on standby. At the end of last year, for example, during the extra-harsh cold snap, the UK’s turbines fell silent for days as windless weather settled over the country.
So I posed a question to those on the newspaper forum whose thinking on the matter did not extend much past ‘just build more wind turbines’.
‘Who’ I asked ‘wants their local hospital connected to a wind turbine?’
‘Lots of people!’ one blogger improbably claimed. The point I was trying to make was that the electricity generated - when the wind is blowing - is tricky stuff to deal with. It’s very hard to store and you can’t attach the wind turbine to anything critical. These fundamental issues seem to have gone over the heads of the theorists and academics that pack out the environmental debate in the UK.