Terence Blacker: Get rich quick by being 'green'

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Having recently contributed to a public inquiry into a proposed wind turbine development, I have taken a particular interest in the news that planning applications of this kind are less likely to be granted than in the past.

As usual, the story has been presented in terms of selfish locals acting against the greater environmental good and, as usual, one crucial element of the renewables story has been entirely ignored. Wind farms are, thanks to the system of public subsidies, highly profitable. The great cause of green energy may impinge on the lives of those who live near to them, but the pain is not exactly shared by developers, landowners and those who act for them. This new report, expressing "growing concerns that developers are being denied a fair hearing", has been issued by the law firm McGrigors, which happens to specialise in the area.

Significantly, developers tend to be reluctant to reveal their figures but, according to the authoritative Renewable Energy Foundation, one 400ft turbine is likely to generate £660,000 a year in income. During its 25-year life, a single turbine would bring in £16.5m.

Landowners will get a healthy share of the action, too. So tempting are the rewards of a successful application that energy companies have taken to cold-calling farmers, offering eye-watering sums. One farmer in Northumberland received 12 approaches. Another was offered £72,000 a year over a 20-year period if he agreed to four turbines being erected on his land.

Here is the first powerful reason why fewer applications from wind farms are being accepted by planning committees than in the past. Attracted by the subsidies on offer, developers are grabbing unsuitable land. On occasions, they have admitted that they have not looked elsewhere in an area for more appropriate sites; it was enough to have a landowner willing to sell.

Unsurprisingly, planning officers and their committees have taken an increasingly sceptical view of applications. Too often, energy companies have, as the recent BBC documentary Windfarm Wars confirmed, held back key information. They have used bullying tactics, and regularly characterise those who have raised concerns about effects on human lives, the impact on landscape and wildlife, as selfish and trivial-minded.

The McGrigors report crucially omits a second reason why applications are less likely to succeed today than two or three years ago. On this small and, compared to Spain, Germany or America, crowded island, there are comparatively few sites suitable for this kind of development – and many of those have already been taken. Every year, finding somewhere to put onshore turbines where they do not have an unacceptably harmful effect becomes more difficult.

It is one of the great hypocrisies of the moment that those who stand to make a fortune in subsidy-based profit are presented, sometimes by those who should know better, as environmental idealists working selflessly for a greener planet. On the other side, anyone who dares to question whether the benefit an individual wind farm may bring is outweighed by the harm it could cause to the countryside and those who live there, will be dismissed as a "Nimby" holding back progress for their own selfish reasons.

If the energy crisis truly requires sacrifice from individuals, it is fair to ask what contribution to the common good, rather than to their own bank balances, is being made by those developers, landowners and lawyers who will grow rich from it.







Powerful women and their fictional fantasies



Reading novels, a Canadian academic has claimed, improves social understanding, but what of its other less positive effects? The dangers of taking a fictional world too seriously have been startlingly evident over recent days.

A few years ago, the famous red-top Rebekah Wade, then editor of the News of the World, required the paper's regular Harry Potter correspondent (what?) to wear the Potter uniform he would keep at the office (what?) when he attended an editorial meeting on – WHAT?– 11 September 2001.

In another part of town, the head of MI5 was fantasising about being Octopussy, the sultry Indian millionairess, who is seduced by Roger Moore in the James Bond film based on an Ian Fleming short story.

Stella Rimington was annoyed, she has confessed, to be described in the press as a "housewife superspy". It has been clear for some time that powerful men working in a hothouse office environment can quickly go round the bend. The effect on powerful women, particularly those vulnerable to fiction, now seems even more disastrous.





Please can we silence some of the chatter?



Watching critics yelping excitedly at one another in last week's Review Show on BBC2, a terrible realisation dawned on me. Suddenly I could understand why Thatcherites used to mock and complain about what they called "the chattering classes". In the 1980s, the phrase seemed like a term of abuse. Now, though, the chatterers really are in charge. As tabloid values get a hammering, a ghastly, keening note of smug middle-class sanctimoniousness has been added. Could we have reached a tipping point when there is simply too much yapping about ideas, columns, books, lectures, films, plays and rumours to be endured by normal people?

It is upsetting to have discovered my inner Thatcherite philistine, but right now, the company of a taciturn, pipe-smoking countryman, who occasionally mentions a bird or a hare he has seen, has never felt more needed.





React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Technician

£30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Energy Sales Co-ordinator

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Energy Sales Consultant

£25000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Bid Writer – Energy Markets

£35000 Per Annum DOE: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Public sector workers march through Newcastle city centre as they take part in the one-day walkout as part of bitter disputes over pay, pensions, jobs and spending cuts  

The Government’s attitude to the civil service is breathtaking hypocrisy

Chris Blackhurst
Brazil fans are devastated while watching the first half on Copacabana Beach during the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final match between Brazil and Germany on July 8, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The winner advances to the final at the famed Maracana stadium.  

The response to Brazil's defeat has been a surreal exploration of loss and tragedy

Timothy Kennett
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil