More wind, more turbines

A letter from Noel Hodgson spoiled the landscape of the letters page of the Gazette last week.

Mr Hodgson’s reasoning on wind turbines looks to be like this: He does not like the appearance of wind turbines; nobody else must like the appearance of wind turbines; Hampshire does not have many wind turbines; the councillors of Hampshire must have rejected lots of them; Northumberland has some turbines, so it must have accepted many more than Hampshire; therefore, the councillors of Hampshire are much more in tune with Mr Hodgson’s opinions than the councillors of Northumberland.

As previously demonstrated, this means they are more in tune with the views of the whole of the general public of the United Kingdom – and possibly the whole world. They are therefore more decent people than our councillors in Northumberland.

Now perhaps we need some facts. Statistics published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveal that Northumberland received 56 turbine applications (a mix of smaller single turbines and groups of larger turbines).

Of these, 13 have been constructed. Hampshire has received five applications, which, on closer inspection turn out to be precisely three applications (two are duplicates of a third). None of these have been constructed.

At this point, Mr Hodgson is no doubt sharpening his pencil to write another letter denouncing metropolitan elites and their disregard for the north. But hold on, Noel!

According to the DECC wind-speed database, there are almost no areas of Hampshire with an average wind speed of more than seven metres per second. Much of Northumberland has a speed of above this level, and since the output of wind turbines is so sensitive to to wind speed (10 per cent higher speeds mean 30 per cent more output), the tendency of developers to apply here turns out not to be southern prejudice but, er, economics.

Finally, what about his belief that everyone agrees with him – that turbines are a blemish, a pesistent disturbance? The test is not what a noisy minority say, but what the silent majority do.

Travel Trends, published the Office for National Statistics, compares overseas visitor numbers by county to the UK annually (I’m not aware of any UK visitor stats – if there were any, I would look at them too).

So, I compared Cornwall and Northumberland, which have a lot of turbines, with Hampshire and Devon, which have very few, between 2009 and 2013.

Numbers visiting Hampshire for holidays have increased by 15 per cent. Devon and Cornwall, with very different numbers of turbines, have both seen a 21 per cent increase.

Northumberland’s numbers? They have increased by 44 per cent.

So a more accurate version of Noel’s theory might be: Developers try to build turbines where the wind blows more.

Most of them get rejected, but some get approved; most people don’t seem to care very much about them, and go ahead and visit places that they’d like to visit. So it goes.

Russell Pope,

Chapel Lands, Alnwick