Wind plans will whip up a storm
Published 14/10/2013 | 01:30
It is not surprising that suggestions for a series of wind farms in the Mournes area have provoked outrage. This is one of the most beautiful parts of Northern Ireland, and even the very idea of placing wind farms amidst this outstanding scenery is bound to be controversial.
As yet this remains only a suggestion from Department of Regional Development officials who indicated that they would be "advocating" that Northern Ireland Water should turn over some of its lands for the production of wind energy.
This could include the area around Silent Valley, and while the DRD is not suggesting that Northern Ireland Water itself should set up wind farms, they are suggesting that it should lease part of its lands to wind farm operators, which amounts to the same thing.
The basic idea is to reduce NIW's electricity bill by creating more energy from natural resources, but already there are strong lobbies on both sides concerning wind farms.
On the positive side, it is a well-established technology which can produce a significant amount of energy, and it can be easy to install.
On the downside, however, the wind turbines themselves create noise and flicker effect, the storage techniques are not yet efficient enough, and, to put it bluntly, they are regarded by most as a blot on the landscape.
However, there needs to be a balance on this issue. On the one hand, wind farms could undoubtedly help to reduce energy bills, and there is abundant wind available in Northern Ireland. There is also no doubt that cheaper wind energy could reduce our dependence on importing electricity from elsewhere.
On the other hand the Mournes are a literally priceless area of natural beauty which attracts many thousands of tourists, and which have even entered the realms of modern literature through the writings of CS Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia.
If the idea is pursued further, it is likely that there will be opposition from many who love the Mournes.
Quite often a government department will put forward a suggestion as a way of "flying a kite" regarding public opinion.
The DRD should make no mistake about which way the wind is blowing on this one, and will continue to do so.