How far has the wind of change blown in 800 years?March 7th, 2011 by Simon Haddock
The world has been making use of energy from the wind for thousands of years. As early as 5000 B.C. it is believed that boatmen on the Nile realised the value of wind to power their sailing vessels.
Windmills were first used in Persia and then in China around 200 B.C. Europe was slower to adopt the technology and the first windmill didn’t go into action in the UK until 1185, with European windmills being used to grind grain and pump water. However, they started to fade into obscurity during the industrial revolution when it was discovered that there were more efficient ways to produce power.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the UK government’s obsession with wind turbines. The UK has committed to an EU target of generating nearly 33% of its electricity from renewables. And this will mainly be achieved through the construction of thousands more wind turbines.
But is it sensible to rely on a jazzed up windmill to supply our power? One of the major problems with wind turbines, as was discovered hundreds of years ago, is that they rely on the elements, something that even the best politicians have no control over.
What happens when we have no wind as was the case during the freezing festive season? Electricity demand was at record levels and yet the UK’s 3,500 wind turbines were unable to make more than a miniscule contribution. Instead, we had to import huge amounts of power from French nuclear reactors.
Whilst technology has undoubtedly advanced in leaps and bounds over the last 800 years, should we really be putting the majority of our eggs in the wind power basket? Windmills were superseded in the past, what’s to say wind turbines won’t end up going the same way? As always, we’d love to hear your views on the subject…
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