Monday, 21 June 2010

Not In My Back Vineyard

We went on a ‘manifestation’ on Saturday.

That’s a protest in French. You might say it was a little too late after all the damn things have already been installed. But an email from an eager friend called us in to help swell the troops. After all imagine how you would feel if four of these 120m tall things had been installed above your roof!

There it is - the dreaded wind turbine or eolienne as they are known in France. A large lump of rotating metal that can be seen for 10’s of kilometers around embedded in an even larger lump of concrete. Metal that is slowly eating into the countryside under the ‘green guise’. Soon Anjou will be full of them if we don’t watch out. The promoters have plans for many more wind farms but the problem is there are only small groups in any commune prepared to fight against them.

So we all donned our ‘gilets jaune’ and went out on a miserably cold and damp Saturday in June to quietly protest at the inauguration (opening party) to which 250 people involved in the project had been invited but none of the local residents.

I wanted to share with you my observations as there are few people prepared to speak out against wind turbines as remarkably they seem to believe the ‘greenwash’ they are being fed. After all we don’t want nuclear do we (even though France is already 80% run on nuclear energy) and we are certainly running out of oil (now we have distributed it all over the Gulf of Mexico).

Here is what I saw at the inauguration:

1. On arrival at the site a large marquee had been erected for the party
2. Next to the marquee was a large bouncy castle (notion of free day out for the children springs to mind)
3. The local traiteur was busy delivering plates of gourmet food and sparkling wine
4. The Mayor of Antoigne arrived - he is the chap who is being paid for putting the wind turbines on his land but is also the chap who has the final say on development in his village!
5. The police were present (just in case we got nasty!)
6. The young promoters (just out of their prams) clutching their Valentino handbags and wearing Dolce & Gabanna sunglasses looked embarrassed when confronted by the opposition.
7. A great deal of back slapping was obviously going on as the get rich quickers chinked their glasses and look upwards at the monstrosities that they have installed.
8. Childrens books were handed out telling then how good wind turbines are. As the children bounced away on the inflatable castle powered by a noisy generator that drowned out the sound of the wind turbines rotating above (handy eh?)
9. We were invited to join the party (providing we took off our yellow jackets) obviously we did not take up this kind offer.

Don’t believe the hype - the Minister of State for France has already denounced eoliennes saying they do not produce the required amount of energy and has made a u turn in policy. But the promoters already have their teeth in persuading the greedy to give up their land for a meagre return. These 10 million euro projects are making ‘a few’ a lot of money. The promoters get approximately 350k euros per annum whilst the Mayor a modest 4k for leasing his land! In years to come these sites will be redundant. Like they are in Hawaii where nothing is left but a wind turbine graveyard of rusting metal. I will bet you that the get rich quickers will not come along and dismantle them then when they prove useless. Oh and another thing - life span 20 years - 6 years to offset their carbon foot print - so only 14 years productive operational life.

In the meantime the innocent victims of this #GREENWASH are suffering. Believe me they have sleepless nights but that’s not all.

The Innocent Victims:

1. They can’t open their windows because of the noise - it sounds like a constant storm battering and wears you down.
2. The flashing red and white lights are distracting and mean folks don’t want to go out and sit in their gardens under them and can be seen from at least 40 km away.
3. House prices are devalued by 20%. It’s a double edged sword as they can’t sell them so they can’t get away from the problem either.
4. The countryside around them has been destroyed and there is little bird life remaining in the surrounding area
5. The result is a lot of grief, stress and anxiety for all the residents of these tiny communes.

What about the Saumur-Anjou Vineyards - does anybody out there care?

I can’t believe that wind turbines are planned for parts of the Loire Valley Vineyards too.

WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE NOTICE!!! Bonnezeaux is certainly next on the list. I saw a report for 25 wind turbines for Chavagnes Luigné and the Layon / Anjou regions are also targeted. There are already areas in the vineyards of Anjou where they can be seen over 40 kilometres away. There are also plans for wind turbines in Tigné where Gérard Depardieu has his vineyards and in Concourson sur Layon where there are many wonderful Layon domaines plus many others.

The problem is most projects are planned for the borders of each commune so that there is little resistance other than that from the local villagers, who are then accused as usual of NIMBYISM. It is hard to pull a large group together when France works in communes. Who cares about the wind turbines planned for x when I live in y they say, even though x is only just across the field and the wind turbines will be very, very large indeed!

I worry for the the biodynamic producers like Marc Angeli of La Ferme de la Sansonnière who has already talked about concerns of radio masts killing the bee population. What will the eoliennes do I wonder? The wind turbines are Eco-Wolves in Sheeps clothing - the promoters pretending they are great for the environment whilst rubbing their hands all the way to the bank and leaving the locals to suffer.

The Alternatives:

My take is that if you want wind turbines then they should be installed in industrial areas where they do the innocent no harm and certainly don’t muck up the countryside, forever. Here are some alternatives we should at least be thinking about :

1. Wind Farms in Industrial Areas
2. Biomass - a renewable energy source, is biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood or waste.
3. Geothermic solutions
4. Photovoltaic - solar power.
5. Being responsible for our own energy consumption and generating what we can in the home. e.g. heat from woodburners, turn off lights when not in use, drive less or share lifts.
6. Candles - more romantic dinners ;)

If you (like me) were pro wind farms because you thought they were ECO then thank you for reading this I hope it has given you food for thought. RANT OVER!