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The Case Against ‘The Mendip Wind Monster’

By Christopher Booker

If you learned that on the Mendips north of Wells we might soon see rising a massive industrial installation 400 feet high, taller than all but a handful of tower blocks in London, would that not give pause for thought?

But that is what is involved in the plan to erect one of the biggest wind turbines in Europe next to Nedge hill on the Bristol road, south-east of Chewton Mendip. And if Mendip district council approves this scheme it will become virtually impossible to halt plans for similar proposals already in the pipeline. The landscape of this beautiful corner of England will have been changed irreparably.

I must declare an interest in this plan because I live in the village of Litton, next to Chewton Mendip. Several times a week I drive to Wells past the site where the developers hope to build their monster turbine.

But my anger at this scheme is based not just on concern for how it and the other ‘wind monsters’ which may follow could transform the skyline of our Mendip hills.

I am also angry because, as a professional journalist who has written extensively about ‘windfarms’ in the national press, I have learned how, financially and environmentally, they make not a shred of sense. In fact the case for building these giant turbines has become one of the great confidence tricks of our time.

When as a Sunday Telegraph columnist I first began investigating the case for wind energy, talking to some of the leading experts in the country, I was shocked. We all know the arguments which once led so many people to support the idea of generating electricity from wind – that it provides ‘cheap’ power by tapping into a ‘free’, ‘natural’ source of energy, cutting down the emissions of carbon dioxide which cause global warming.

What I was not prepared for was to discover just how empty all these arguments turned out to be. Far from being a cheap source of energy, electricity generated from giant wind turbines is so ludicrously uneconomic that it is two and a half times more expensive than any conventional source of power. It only seems to make sense because it receives massive hidden subsidies, which we all pay for through our electricity bills.

Far from helping to ‘save the planet’, by cutting down carbon emissions, its contribution is derisory. The glossy publicity put out by Ecotricity, the multi-million pound firm behind the Mendip proposal, boasts that its 2 megawatt turbine will provide enough electricity to supply ‘1793 homes’.

This may sound impressive, but what they don’t tell us is that this is only enough power to boil 200 electric kettles – and that for more than two thirds of the time, wind turbines generate no electricity at all, because there is either not enough wind or too much.

Ecotricity also claim that their first Mendip turbine will save thousands of tonnes of noxious gases from being pumped into the atmosphere each year. What they don’t say is that any savings it makes will be more than made up for by the pollution from two or three of those trucks which regularly thunder over the A39 to Wells to supply the shelves of our local Tesco.

It is not surprising that the most vehement critics of the ‘Emperor’s new clothes syndrome’ of wind-energy include some of our leading environmentalists, such as David Bellamy and James Lovelock, famous as father of the ‘Gaia’ thesis.

Yet is for this that we are being asked to sacrifice the skyline of the Mendips to an industrial structure 394 feet high (120 metres), more than twice as tall as the central tower of Wells Cathedral, with its revolving blades visible across Somerset from up to 30 miles away.

As has been discovered by those in other parts of Britain who have already experienced the shock of seeing giant turbines rising over their hilltops, their impact can be hugely damaging - affecting everything from tourism and people’s health to the level of house prices.

The question is: are our councillors sufficiently well-briefed to realise the awesome implications of the decision they are being asked to take, on behalf of all of us who live in this area?

I am part of an action group, Chart – Chewton Against Rural Turbines – which has been set up to campaign against this proposal. We are in no way opposed to small-scale wind generators, of the kind we can see at Charterhouse. But we are opposed to huge, wasteful industrial turbines, towering over the skyline, out of all proportion to the landscape. We neither wish to see them here on the Mendips or anywhere.

Over the next few weeks we plan an intensive campaign to ensure that councillors, planners and local residents are given the facts on this issue – as opposed to the expensive spin coming from those who are making millions out of the great ‘wind scam’.

Anyone who wishes to support this ‘fight for the Mendips’ is invited to contact us, through the Wells Journal (where possible giving e-mail addresses). The battle has begun!