Monday, October 19, 2009

Wind Energy in France

Edward Cody had a fascinating piece in last Sunday's Post (here) about a controversy over windmills in France. Cody's piece reminds me of the opposition to installing windmills around Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The French government has set a goal of 8,500 windmills, which would produce 25,000 megawatts of energy, by the year 2020. Currently there are 2,500 windmills.

328. How many windmills are there in the United States? How many are there in Virginia?

According to Cody, a specific plan is to install 3 windmills in the town of Argouges, which is approximately 10 miles from Mont St. Michel. These windmills would be 300 feet high, and they would be slightly visible from Mont St. Michel.

329. Can you really see for 10 miles? I thought you could only see for 3-4 miles (?).

The opponents of the current plan for Argouges argue that the windmills should be at least 18 1/2 miles from Mont St. Michel. They also oppose -- on a broader scale -- France's move towards a greater reliance on wind energy, arguing that "the mills deface the landscape everywhere ... and are not an economical way to reach Europe's clean-energy goals."

The wind energy issue is a fascinating conundrum for environmentalists. Wind is far preferable to carbon-based sources and also preferable -- as I understand it, at least -- to nuclear power. That being the case, it's got to be a tough call for them to oppose wind energy on primarily aesthetic grounds.

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Cody writes that farmers are often pro-windmill -- motivated by the lease payments that they receive (this reminds me of American farmers who lease their land for cell phone towers):
"Farmers and their village councils, often one and the same, tend to embrace proposals to install windmills in their fields ... because farmers get stipends for use of the land and villages get tax revenue on income from electricity, which is sold to the national grid at favorable prices by the private companies that build the windmills."

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