Climate Change discussion has shifted from fringe voices to mainstream acceptance of the scale of the pollution we’re causing to the planet we need for survival. To prevent further damage, we have to prioritise the steps we’re taking to meet our climate change targets. Unfortunately the mainstream media seem to have missed the crucial first step: use less energy.
The truth that each one of us is accountable for the planet is dawning on more of us and remarkable initiatives are creating cleaner energy: soon after the party was over, organisers announced the tonnes of waste abandoned at Notting Hill carnival will be used to generate 97,200 KWh of electricity; CEO of Ecotricity, Dale Vince spearheaded the invention of ‘green gas’ (it’s exactly as it sounds), which he claims could ‘produce 66% of domestic and commercial gas demand on marginal farmland by 2035.’; and then there’s the German architect, Andre Broessel, who created a spherical solar generator so he can ‘squeeze more juice out of the sun’. All of these are valiant efforts where people have invested time and energy to make the air cleaner but there is also an everyday solution – use energy efficient technology alongside habits such as switching off lights etc. Even lowering the thermostat by 1 degree will emit substantially fewer CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and can reduce energy usage by 10%.
Nevertheless, renewable energy is taking the spotlight in media discussion of how we confront global warming in the UK. There are 7000 wind turbines operating on-shore but there is insufficient evidence for popularising wind power as British weather is only becoming more unpredictable due to increasingly high temperatures. The UK is one of the windiest regions in Europe and yet a wind turbine has to stop generating electricity if winds reach above 50 miles per hour. In terms of operation, wind turbines have to be positioned in an ideal location and they can only operate when wind speeds are above 10 miles per hour. It seems odd to have such a high number of them generating electricity when the maximum output occurs at 33 miles per hour and every year is beating the one prior for achieving the highest ever temperature on record.
While we are safe from pollutants during the operation process of a wind turbine, question are being raised about the carbon cost of manufacturing and construction. Another concern is that wind turbines rely upon a rare Earth metal named neodymium that is extracted and exported from China. It may not be apparent immediately but the heavy metal usage and particulate matter emissions surpass that of a nuclear power station per unit of electricity generated. This article highlights the level of damage to the earth its extraction creates; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/aug/07/china-rare-earth-village-pollution
Researchers have yet to find an alternative to using rare Earth metals so perhaps we should halt the growth of the wind turbine until we can work out a less carbon heavy way of building them? It takes miles of transport in order to reach our green space or offshore locations and therefore the carbon footprint has already been totalling up before the blades begin to spin. Since this has happened before any energy is generated, we must ensure that its usage only occurs in the most efficient way.
How long does a wind turbine last before it needs major component replacement or refurbishment? When stood close to one you can feel the vibration through the ground beneath your feet. What effect does that vibration have on its concrete foundations or metal structure? How long does it have to run before its paid off the carbon debt incurred during its manufacture and ongoing maintenance? These questions all go largely unasked or unanswered in the media.
Away from wider concerns, those who surround wind farms complain that the imposing metal turbines are built upon once clear green space in the English countryside. Additionally, the bat conservation trust have been showing concern for bats who fall victim to the operating turbine. The solution to this is to install radar transmitters so bats steer clear… but birds will still fly into the spinning blades unwittingly. Given the impact on communities and animals, we should be looking into ways to counteract these problems before we bolster ahead with an increased use of wind power – a form of renewable energy entirely reliant on the weather.
Are we encouraged to support the growth of wind power because people are profiting from it? I would assert the reason we rarely hear of the benefits on energy efficiency is because they directly benefit your company and require little effort, saving you money rather than supporting a Government and large corporation agenda.