The answer, my friend, according to Bob Dylan. But is it the answer to our future energy needs? Onshore wind energy farms have created so much controversy in their relatively short life spans to date, that it is worth taking a moment to take stock of the debate.
All industries can benefit from marketing consultancy to build their brand
Spiders from Mars?
One of the over-riding objections to wind turbines is their looks. They are perceived to be ugly, cumbersome and robotic, despoiling beautiful landscape and turning hitherto pristine hillsides into colonies of giant arachnid-like contraptions. Although alternative power infrastructures, such as fossil fuel and nuclear power stations are hardly renowned for their aesthetic qualities, there is something about wind farms which brings out the vehement protestor in the British heart. There is a slight anomaly in the fact that we are often nostalgic and keen to preserve old windmills, which are generally accepted as being attractive and appealing in the countryside, when they were essentially the precursors of today’s technology, harnessing the power of the wind to grind wheat or pump water.
Is it a price worth paying?
Well, yes, if cheaper renewable energy is the end goal. Onshore wind already provides a massive quarter of the electricity from British renewables and that is enough to save six million tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is key if the country is to meet its targets on greenhouse gas emissions, which are legally binding. Onshore turbines are cheaper to establish than their offshore cousins, for obvious reasons and wind generation is slightly cheaper than nuclear with prices expected to fall as time goes on. Wind power, in essence, is clean and cheap. The drawback to it is that the wind is not consistent and therefore supply is not guaranteed.
How to turn public opinion in their favour?
Some of the misconceptions about wind farms persist. The most common charge is that they are destructive to wild bird life. The high efficiency turbines of the twenty first century turn at much lower speeds than their predecessors and even the Audubon Society now supports them. They acknowledge that the threat posed by global warming is far greater to avian life than the small numbers lost in the odd collision. These deaths are far lower than those caused by domestic cats. The wind power industry weighs in with more pros than con’s to its effectiveness and yet it still has an image problem. It seems some serious consultation with a marketing consultancy would not go amiss
In the meantime however, the Government seem to be getting cold feet about their prior commitment to this renewable. They are introducing a substantial cut to the subsidies for wind farms which will delight opponents, but has left the industry itself baffled and bemused. The deputy chief executive of RenewableUK has likened the reversal to be asked to pay back a 20 year mortgage in 15 years instead. The investment and job creation that has gone into the generation of the wind farms to date now may be once again in question. When it comes to whether the answer is blowing in the wind or not, it is clear that no one really knows.