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Let’s face it – renewable energy sources are something that, eventually, we’re going to have to rely on. With fossil fuels being consumed at an ever-increasing rate in this technological age, the government is constantly searching for ways to substitute limited fossil fuels with cleaner, renewable energy sources in a cost effective way. But is renewable energy such a good idea?
Not according to the Conservative Energy Minister, John Hayes. A critic of the production of wind farms, he has recently been quoted saying that ‘enough is enough’, arguing that no new investments in wind farms should be committed to as the country is ‘peppered’ with them. Yet again, an outspoken politician has sparked controversy within the coalition, with the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey denying a change of the government’s renewable energy policy, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron. For once, however, David Cameron might actually have been decisive in a positive way. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Cameron fended off an attack from Ed Miliband and asserted his authority, declaring that the government is prepared to invest in further renewable energy projects.
But for people like John Hayes, this assertive support for further wind farm projects is not positive. Surely it’s naïve to think in this way. Examples of innovative ways of preserving our natural resources are right on our doorstep. Just this month, a brand new wind turbine has been installed next to the M6 motorway to provide around 11-17% of the university’s energy needs. It’s a giant leap in the right direction; I think we can all agree that Lancaster has plenty of freely available wind to convert into energy!
Such open-mindedness and innovation, however, just isn’t enough to persuade critics that further investment in wind farms is needed. Hayes claimed that he ‘can protect our green and pleasant land’, implying that turbines are unsightly and ruin the traditional British landscape, a common controversial point concerning wind farms. As for me on the other hand, Hayes couldn’t be more wrong. Aside from being slender and elegant, wind turbines punctuate our landscape in such a way as to redefine what the traditional British landscape actually looks like. A couple of centuries ago British countryside was defined uniquely by agriculture; now wind farms are a sign of technological development that can co-exist with agriculture and natural landscapes, still preserving the character that so distinguishes Britain. To argue that wind farms are unsightly is, as far as I’m concerned, to turn a blind eye against the development of the human race.
Surely we cannot argue that turbines ruin our landscape when areas of British countryside have been ruined by things much more monstrous this. There has been no such debate on campus about the turbine located next to the M6, purely because it is situated next to a monstrosity that also could be deemed as unsightly and ‘peppering’ our countryside – that man-made construction called a motorway. I don’t hear Mr Hayes arguing publicly against the development of motorways and other major road works that do exactly the same to our countryside as he argues wind turbines do. Would you rather look at a concrete slab of a motorway, dotted with metal cars pumping out tonnes and tonnes of exhaust fumes every minute of every day, or a wind turbine?
Hayes is stuck desperately in the past, refusing to contemplate the possibility that one day, such aesthetics concerning wind farms will cease to matter. For all the coalition’s faults, I’m pleased that Cameron and Davey have taken a firm stance over this, just as Lancaster University has recognised the undisputable benefits of turning to renewable resources to power our campus. So why not go above and beyond the energy targets that have been set for the government, and even on a smaller scale on campus? The world needs preserving, and wind turbines can do just that.