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Good wind vs. hot air

Here's an useful review of John Etherington's recent anti-wind book, written by Prof John Twidell that takes apart large parts of his claims. Do pass it on to any wind sceptics that you hear quoting John Etherington's work.

John Etherington’s academic background in Ecology is established and justified by his previous position as Reader in a mainstream UK university.  Thus his comments on climate change and environmental science must be taken seriously and can be scrutinised within the ongoing climate change debate. However, the book’s title is ‘The Wind Farm Scam’ and he must not be allowed to detract from discussing wind power by seeking allies from the ‘climate change denial’ camp.  His technical knowledge of wind turbines, wind-generated electricity, wind prediction and the distribution and transmission of grid electricity has some glaring omissions and misunderstandings, as discussed above. His understanding of electricity generators and grid power is dismal. These and the other deficiencies outlined above are sufficient to seriously discredit his opinions about windfarms.

The style of the book is not that of a scientific or technical publication, despite the author claiming academic distinction.   All too quickly he slips into the sarcastic style of colloquial scepticism, rather than try to maintain an academic rationality.  The Preface exposes this predisposition. His admission there that he became ‘abstracted, perhaps even obsessed’* about his subject is a clue to the intensity of his possible paranoia about windfarms.  His consultancy for a leading anti-wind lobbying group and his reliance on leading anti-wind sceptics** has clearly affected his opinions.  This leads him to suspect misrepresentation*** in windfarm developers and others.  Such paranoia is not helpful for an intended rational publication.

The book does expose some deficiencies in the arguments for wind power, but the central fact that natural, unpolluting wind generates electricity in significant amounts into national grids remains correct.  Obviously this electricity displaces an equivalent amount of other generation, which in the UK and most countries abates fossil fuels and CO2 emissions.   Yes, wind turbines are prominent and observable structures in the local environment.  Some people like to watch them, others, obviously including John Etherington, loathe such a view.  Yet Etherington admits to idolising the manmade landscape of Britain’s mountain grazing slopes and hedged pastures.  The irony of such dichotomy does not strike him.  Visual impact and its psychological implications is probably the key to understanding the divisions exposed by this book; every other criticism from Etherington and his colleagues probably flows from this problem.

Click here for the full review

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