Upland Britain with a blanket cover of wind turbines

Palm Springs may show how Upland Britain will look in the age of renewable energy

Palm Springs may show how Upland Britain will look in the age of renewable energy

David MacKay states that onshore wind farms are likely to generate 2W/m2 and offshore wind farms to generate 3W/m2. To supply the UK energy demand of 50kWh/day would therefore require an area twice the size of Wales to meet the demand with from offshore farms and three times the size of Wales to meet the demand from onshore wind farms. Wales (8,022 sq mi ) has approx 8%  of the area of the UK. At present 13.5% of the UK is urbanized. David MacKay asks ‘would the public accept and pay for such extreme arrangements?’ Please study the above photo of Palm Springs in California before giving an answer. Some people might find a blanket of turbines ugly.

Scotland has 32% of the UK’s land area and only 8.4% of the population, so it would be relatively easy to win a democratic vote to blanket Scotland with wind turbines and solve the UK’s energy problem, though the cost would be high. We could omit the Forth-Clyde Valley and include parts of Northumberland and Central Wales  in the interests of ‘equity’. Too many southerners have holiday homes in the Lake District for this area to be included – so it could be a good place for property investment.

Above image courtesy slworking

Would the Scots mind having wind turbines embellishing Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh's historic skyline?

Would the Scots mind having wind turbines embellishing Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh's historic skyline?

34 thoughts on “Upland Britain with a blanket cover of wind turbines

  1. Marie-Aline

    Maybe it is a form of egoism to nature to choose for a beautiful landscape without wind turbines – and so to prefer to demolish the earth more and more.
    But to choose for a ‘different’ landscape, with the wind turbines, is choosing for the planet. And personally, I find the windturbines beautiful to look at, even if they are many together at the same place, and they are elegant in their design. They give the area where they are a special character.

    Naturally, we have to consider the influence on the immediate environment around the turbines, for wildlife and flora, to say for sure if they are really so earthfriendly as tought…

    (Sorry if my sentences aren’t completely right written…).

  2. Marie-Aline

    I think the examples of Palm Springs have a certain degree of poetry. It’s like the wind turbines are a new form of agriculture. But not at human scale. Maybe that’s why we feel afraid of this development?

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Belgium is about one third the size of Scotland and has twice as many people. What would you think about covering ALL the non-urban land with wind turbines?

  4. Christine

    I think I agree with both of you – so the conversation made me laugh! I rather like the wind turbines too Marie-Aline.

    But at the same time realise that we have to be selective about their use. Some locations are more ideal for wind turbines than others in terms of their efficient operation. And some locations would be better off without them in terms of aesthetics [Composition]…ie Arthur’s Seat. (Although the Arthur’s Seat photograph is more visually pleasing [Ordered] than the Palm Springs photograph!).

    Remembering the evolution of the mobile phone from ‘brick’ to the disappearing micro object it is today – I am rather more optimistic about our ability to innovate so that the contemplated outcome of turbines covering Upland Britain does not occur!

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    The UK Countryside Commission (now subsumed into Natural England) once supported the idea of Landscape Evaluation which, theoretically, could have been used to define which areas were most beautiful and which were most ugly. Such a study could have been used to define where wind turbines should and should not be placed. Regrettably, the endeavour was abandoned. Instead, Natural England supports a postmodern and politically correct method of Landscape Character Assessment which allows each area to have its own valuable quality and character – but is of little use in siting wind turbines. See http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/lcatopicpaper1_tcm6-8171.pdf

  6. leo

    with regard to the mobile phone analogy….i quite agree, surely the technology will develop, however there is maybe a matter of urgency to consider and i don’t think we want a load of “brick” turbines plentifully scattered around,….but do we have time to wait. and replacing the old bricks with the sexier model would be inefficient.
    i do like a nice (and i mean nice in the true sense of the word) turbine myself though….beauty in functionality and all that. the palm springs ones don’t do it for me though i’m afraid and as for arthur….he wouldn’t beable to sit and relax for sure.
    landscape character?…we need it, for heritage, for leisure, for our own (us as a nation)well being and for bringing in the money from tourists etc, but this i feel is a luxury. if the other option is to be reliant on foreign controlled energy resources in an unstable global environment….how much will we then be able to relax and enjoy our beautiful land….and at one extreme this competition for resources could lead to conflict and a detruction of the land we so treasure….in a desperate situation we are just happy to survive and beauty loses out.
    there is no quick answer, and i hope we all think more than twice.

  7. Tom Turner Post author

    My view is that for the UK, as a relatively rich country with a relatively high population density, the best solution is offshore wind farms. To make them economic they should be combined with other facilities (eg fish farms, dive resorts, yacht harbours, third homes, artificial islands, marine hotels, wave power generators etc). “Hotels?” you might ask. Yes: the views of sea, sky and wave effects could be astonishing and with cheap power one could have an indoor tropical bubble with the starkest scenic effects viewed from the glazed perimeter. Those whining turbines could be seen but not heard.

  8. Marie-Aline

    A few years ago there was a project in Belgium to instal a windfarm in the North Sea between England and Belgium. Many people who lived at the coast, and many tourists, who came at the coast for their vacation, offered resistence against this project, because it would change their panoramic view to the sea. Finally, the project still started, and we all get used to see the wind turbines, and in fact we don’t really see them anymore.
    See [ http://energie.lexpansion.com/articles/climat/2009/09/L-eolien-en-mer-du-nord–horizon-bouche—/ ]

  9. leo

    not just seen and not heard…but seen and not seen….i see

    off course off shore is the way forward, but with inland wind farms being a big chunk of DJC Mackay’s ‘stack’ we need to consider where it could fit…

  10. Marie-Aline

    I don’t really see the link between wind turbines and waves in a storm?
    Or are you suggesting you prefer the power of waves in sea to produce energy than wind turbines? [http://ocsenergy.anl.gov/guide/wave/index.cfm]

  11. Tom Turner Post author

    Marie, please see comment 10 above. I am suggesting that the foundations for marine wind turbines should also be used for artificial islands – and that one of the islands could have a weekend retreat (hotel) from which I can have wonderful views of wild seas without getting unduly cold, wet or seasick.

  12. Christine

    Tom is this the sort of experience you were thinking of avoiding? [ http://pixdaus.com/index.php?pageno=7&tag=sign&sort=tag ]

    Very interesting thought if the weather because increasingly unpredictable how will we experience storms in gardens/landscapes and architecture?
    [ http://www.wunderground.com/wximage/viewsingleimage.html?mode=singleimage&handle=ronko&number=201 ]

    From my very limited snorkelling experience I can say the ocean can be turbulent on the surface and calm beneath the waves…[ http://www.poseidonresorts.com/poseidon_main.html ] Not sure what the limits of underwater habitation are?

    The Hilton in the Maldives has experimented with underwater life…
    [ http://www.myinterestingfiles.com/2008/01/the-worlds-first-undersea-restaurant.html ]

  13. Tom Turner Post author

    They would need a long cable to get the power to Scotland! But, believe me, there are a lot of windswept boggy wastes in Scotland which could well be used for turbines – if they were an economic proposition without lavish subsidies. What they would need is a ‘landscape evaluation’ resting upon a ‘landscape character assessment’.

  14. Christine

    Thankyou. Hattie Hartman believes “When architecture is discussed on a more profound level, sustainability rarely figures.” I don’t think this is true. Rather technology figures highly, but design is sidelined…

    Sustainability is a very ‘now’ topic. But sustainability =/ (does not equal) architecture/landscape or design. I still think this fundamental distinction is being missed.

    Norman Foster [ http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/architects/ ] takes the long and wide view of sustainability and begins his discussion with Buckminister Fuller.
    [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNgkEGs1l4A&feature=player_embedded ] It is good to hear him talk as he has considerable technological and design credibility without being defined by ‘green-ness’. I think this is helpful and could help advance the design and collaborative understandings of sustainability significantly.

    It is great also to see a healthy plethora of competitions about imagining the city! Although of course sustainability does not end with the city, but rather with human settlement.

  15. Tom Turner Post author

    I don’t read as much architectural criticism as I would like to: but my impression is that style is the main topic and technology comes second, with very little attention given to how well the building fits the needs of the users. Vitruvius called this utilitas and Commodity is not a good translation.
    With regard to the Vitruvian trilogy, I am unsure whether sustainability is an aspect of Firmness or of Commodity. Ian Thompson wrote a book on Ecology, Community and Delight which sees Ecology (including sustainability) as the landscape equivalent of Firmness. But when I think of all the effort in maintaining a ‘perfect lawn’, I am more inclined to see it as an aspect of Commodity. It could be both.
    I enjoyed the Foster video. He speaks very well but says surprisingly little. (1) I don’t think the Romans would be at all surprised at the character of the modern world and, should we survive, I doubt if things will be so different in another 2000 years (2) the ideas of living modestly and economically are as old as monasticism – and a good deal older than the Romans (3) I spent a few minutes in a Buckminster Fuller type dome recently: it was badly ventilated, too hot and full of glare. (4) Norman Foster is right about the high energy consumption of US cities vis-a-vis European cities (5) I admire his roofs eg his 1973 project http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willis_Building_%28Ipswich%29 (6) despite sometimes working with good landscape architects (eg Robert Townsend) I think Fosters, as a firm, has no grasp of the design of outdoor space (eg the wasted space around the Swiss Re building) (7)though I don’t know enough about it, I am attracted to the Aqaba to Dead See canal idea

    What the world needs is more collaboration between brilliant architects and brilliant landscape architects. A major obstacle to this collaboration is that too many architects are educated to believe they need to collaborate with engineers without learning that the same level of fundamental collaboration is also necessary with landscape architects. I have the impression that when Fosters work with landscape architects they say: “here is a patch of space – please put in some paving some plants and perhaps a pool, if you can make it rectangular”. This is not the kind of brief they would want for the architecture.

  16. DAN

    interesting video indeed and now a couple of years old…
    His points about human scale and human friendly design are lost on me slightly and his own examples of ‘public space’ around the gerkin are not something to be celebrated I think. That space is cold and empty and feels like a square around a circle… awkward spaces in fact. An afterthought / convieniance…
    His collaborative work with engineers is certainly impressive but it is his human scale I do not totally understand… though his head is certainly bigger than mine…

  17. Christine

    I totally agree the world needs brilliant architects and landscape architects to collaborate.

    Tom it would be a fanatastic project for landscape students to redesign the Willis Building green roof. Perhaps you could invite Norman Foster to the crits…the process might just spark his enthusiasm for landscape architecture (in other than rectangular pools, paving and plants)…then imagine!

    In defence of architects (and the size of their heads) and their lack of landscape savy. There is alot to think about. And we do need a little help from our friends! Roofs were not historically about green space.

    A little about firmness…(which is not really separable from commodity and delight)…

    Roofs are not inherently the architect’s favourite part of the design – they are notoriously difficult to get right.

    During the Renaissance the technique for designing domes was to try something and if it didn’t collapse then it was a success! [ http://www.skyarts.co.uk/art-design/article/renaissance-secrets-the-riddle-of-the-dome ] Brunelleschi’s 600-year-old dome on the Florence Cathedral still causes awe and wonder.

    With the introduction of flat roofs in the Modern Movement architects tended not to answer their phones either when it rained or when it was very hot (the roofs which were made of bituminous material had a habit of slipping off!)

    It is said that Villa Savoye’s roof commenced leaking almost immediately after the Savoye family moved in so Le Corbusier only narrowly avoided a lawsuit when the family fled France due to the German Army invading!

    So getting to today’s green roof took some doing.

    Utzon’s roof for the Opera House in Sydney was controversial too. Many believed it was impossible to construct. But I suppose they weren’t as familiar with the Aha moment and good engineers like Arups;

    “The shells were originally designed as a series of parabolas, however engineers Ove Arup and partners had not been able to find an acceptable solution to constructing them. In mid 1961 Utzon handed the engineers his solution to the problem, the shells all being created as ribs from a sphere of the same radius. This not only satisfied the engineers, and cut down the project time drastically from what it could have been (it also allowed the roof tiles to be prefabricated in sheets on the ground, instead of being stuck on individually in mid-air), but also created the wonderful shapes so instantly recognisable today.”
    [ http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com/ROC/QUA01.htm ]

    There is very little garden at the Opera House but it is still a fantastic building in a fantastic setting! Perhaps landscape architects could have contributed to the urban design of the podium and promenade spaces?

  18. Tom Turner Post author

    Lots of interesting points regarding roofs, thank you.
    It is a pity more people did not discover the secret of long-life bitumen felt roofs: the bitumen must be protected with a thin layer of soil. It keeps the bitumen cool and moist, thus preventing melts and cracks, and it can grow sedums or grass with a mat to prevent root damage.
    Re the Sydney Opera House: it is brilliantly designed in relation to the landscape – in the very best classical tradition of making a response to the Genius of the Place.

  19. Christine

    Thank you too. So now I am on the trail of a roof which will support a garden proper!
    [ http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2004/nov/14/property.observercashsection1 ] With a tree or two…[ http://www.greenroofs.org/grtok/ ]

    The International Green Roof Association calls them Intensive Green Roofs.[ http://www.igra-world.com/types_of_green_roofs/index.php ]

    In the United States The Michigan State University is committed to green roof research.
    [ http://www.hrt.msu.edu/greenroof/ ]

    And it seems a ‘healthy’ amount of vanity has benefitted the realisation of a project? http://www.penick.net/digging/?cat=34 ]

  20. Tom Turner Post author

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘proper’. The simple fact is that unless there is a good reason to do otherwise ALL roofs should be vegetated. ‘Good reasons’ can include historic character, solar generation, pedestrian traffic, glazing etc but apart from these occasional exceptions, each and every new roof should be vegetated. Yes: all of them. Every single one. No excuses! Some vegetated roofs will be extensive (ie unmanaged and reliant on rainfall). Other vegetated roofs will be intensive (ie managed using wastewater etc).

    So how would this principle work in an arid climate? Not sure! – but I guess there would/will be many roofs which are covered with bare soil for much of the year (or for all of a dry year) but which bloom like the desert when the rains come. Imagine the pleasure of driving through a desert time after a shower and seeing all the roofs covered in wild flowers: visual poetry – and a useful contribution to re-balancing the carbon cycle and reducing the need for wind turbines.

  21. Christine

    I am not sure I am convinced of the principle ALL new roofs should be vegetated? Why am I resistant?

    Not sure, perhaps there is an underlying conviction that the situation will arise where a vegetated roof is not the most appropriate solution….

    Perhaps I need to think of all the times that a vegetated roof might be most appropriate?

    You see I wouldn’t advocate retro-greening the Sydney Opera House. (Nor would I wish to be without it as it is. Ditto many other roofs.)


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