Power to the people for our children’s sake

THE people of this country have not got round to a proper basic debate about our future power needs. We have to face up to the fact that our electricity at present is produced by out-of-date power stations which are being decommissioned in the next decade.

Mat Ridley tell us that there is enough fossil fuel to last us over 200 years but others do not accept that and they reckon it will be unavailable to our grandchildren.

Others also think our power use at present contributes to global warming and the carbon footprint, although I personally do not think mankind can not affect the weather in anyway.

The world is still coming out of the last ice age and, as King Canute demonstrated, we can not affect the tide.

We need power in large quantities at a calculable level but we also need it in surges which occur when large numbers switch on at the same time. We also need quick control in bulk switch-offs.

Now there are several ways of dealing with the future without using lots of fossil fuel or with expensive alternatives from bio-fuel of corn, oil seed rape, sugar and wheat, although soon the cost of oil may be at the point where these may be cheaper.

Solar panels can work by raising the household water temperature and we experimented with this in the new county hall at Morpeth when building it in 1980.

Solar apparatus can do a little to the private home but it takes at least 40 years to pay off the extra expenditure and my husband and I found them no real use when we went into it five years ago to try to reduce the cost of keeping warm.

If solar panels are put up in fields, they can give better production for the grid but the effect is far more disagreeable than windmills in large numbers. Believe me, I have seen such arrangements in Spain and Majorca and listened to a farmer trying this in the South West.

Although the sheep could safely graze, the carbon footprint was not reduced by covering the grass, but increased. The footprint was also increased by the Chinese dams scheme at the end of the last century.

Nuclear, which we have to invest in, is good and safe in well-trained scientific hands and we have had good service in the stations so far. I also think we will learn to carry on extracting the remaining power in the future from the rods we now think are out of range, so the disposal problem will be reduced.

The problem with nuclear and indeed with the present fossil fuel stations is power production cannot be switched on and off quickly and costs lots when the grid is overloading.

Sudden surges are, at present, dealt with by the hydroelectric stores, one in Snowdon and one in Scotland.

These schemes are fascinating. I have been to the one in Snowdon which gave a large boost to the local economy but had an enormous anti-lobby from tourists before it was built.

However, it did nothing to spoil the vista for the visiting tourist from the cities of Britain.

Wind is free at source and supplies the grid if decent-sized turbines are built but at present it is a little more expensive than fossil fuels but, have no fear, their cost will rise very quickly with the present problems in the Middle East.

Three weeks ago, there was such an overload of power on the grid the producers were able to get quick, inexpensive control by turning off the wind turbines.

The windmills help the farming carbon footprint and have no bad effect of flora and fauna.

Birds and bats (which work off an internal radar) are not killed by these machines. I have made investigations on that score.

In the States, they have found the bird population suffers enormous numbers of deaths from high glass towers, which are very popular there.

We have all our own hates and likes, however, this very nasty attack on landowners is sad, to say the least, as the windfarms can help give those farmers, who maintain the upland for us to visit, some sort of reasonable income for their families.

This ownership of land is no different in the end to owning a factory and everyone is happy to buy what they need from manufacturers.

All the farmer is doing is providing your daily bread, meat and vegetables. That you can enjoy his workplace and walk to see it, we should not regard it as a place of envy.

Durham has enormous numbers of windfarms and so far Northumberland has not done its share for the country as a whole when it has the resources to do so.

In this county, we expect to have our comfort at a switch of the light and the turn-on of the boiler but we have to contribute to the need for power and that will include a replacement nuclear power station.

So please can we start discussing our future with proper knowledge of the costs and risks without letting our judgement be obstructed by each of our personal preferences.

Ann Wrangham,

Harehope Hillend,