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Birmingham City Council

Hot Topics - Wind Farms

What are Wind Farms?

Wind farms are the collection of individual wind turbines that can either be located onshore or offshore. Wind farms are located on sites that receive high levels of wind and the wind turbines harness this wind energy to generate electricity. Wind farms are located around the U.K. and there are many other proposed sites for the future. “The UK is the windiest country in Europe” (BWEA, 2009).

Wind Energy is a form of renewable energy.

Renewable Energy

Wind farms are just one form of renewable energy. Other types of renewable energy include Solar Power, Hydroelectric power (HEP), biofuels and geothermal energy. Renewable energy resources are becoming increasingly popular as fuel consumption and population increases simultaneously with non-renewable energy resources running out.

Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power

Coal, Oil and Gas are all types of fossil fuels that can be burned to release energy and produce electricity. These fossil fuels, when burnt, release pollutants into the atmosphere. For example, burning coal produces carbon dioxide and it increases the occurrence of acid rain. As energy demand increases, so does the pollution.

Traditionally the UK has used fossil fuels to meet energy demands. The global resources of coal, oil and gas are all finite.

Nuclear energy comes from the use of Uranium in a process known as Nuclear Fission, the “breaking down” of Uranium. There has been controversy surrounding Nuclear power because the ‘by products’ (or waste) are used to make nuclear weapons. There is also the tragic incident that occurred in the Ukraine in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect

The Natural Greenhouse Effect is controlled by the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases, known as greenhouse gases (such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane) trap the long-wave radiation that is reflected off the earth’s surface. The radiation originally comes from the Sun in the form of short-wave radiation, but then becomes long-wave radiation when reflected back from the Earth’s surface.

The use of fossil fuels has accelerated this natural phenomenon to produce what is now called the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect. Fossil fuels when burnt release greenhouse gases (such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane) into the atmosphere. The higher concentration of these greenhouse gases leads to further trapping of long-wave radiation (or heat) which then raises the temperature of the atmosphere and hence warming over various biomes on the planet.

This increased warming is more commonly known as Global Warming. It is this Enhanced Greenhouse Effect, as opposed to the Natural Greenhouse Effect that has caused Global Warming.

Sustainability

The pressures that face society today are to reduce energy consumption and to combat the Global Warming phenomenon. In order to achieve this we need to change the way in which we live our lives and develop. This can be described as Sustainability, trying to live in balance with our planet.

European countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Spain are already using Wind technology, and in regards to energy consumption are achieving sustainable development as outlined by the Rio Earth Summit: Agenda 21 in 1992.

Controversy and NIMBYISM

Recently there has been a lot of controversy over the location of wind farms in the UK. The major hurdle for the development of wind farms has been public opposition. People who are opposed to wind farm developments within their local area are often termed NIMBY’S. NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard, this negativity is coined NIMBYISM.

The main grounds for opposing wind technology are:

• Visual Intrusion
• Noise Pollution
• Ecological disturbance (disrupt flight paths of bird species)

Regardless of this opposition and the reasons provided, there needs to be a nationwide cut in carbon emissions and thus compared to other forms of renewable energy, fossil fuels and nuclear power, wind technology is the most feasible solution at present.

“The government’s renewable energy strategy states that the ambitious target of generating 15% of all the UK’s energy from renewables by 2020 means that 35-45% of electricity will have to come from green sources. The lion’s share of these renewables will have to be wind” (BWEA 2009).

YIMBY

To encourage people to become a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) we can look towards European countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Spain who have already succeeded at incorporating wind technology into their lifestyles.

There are incentives to encourage residents in an area where wind farms are to be built; one such incentive is the offering of shares in the development.

To conclude, wind technology is not the only solution towards a more sustainable future, however, it can play a major role towards cutting carbon emissions whilst continuing to provide for the UK energy demands.

Useful Websites


www.bwea.com

www.bbc.co.uk