As students, I am sure that we are all aware of the daunting prospect that is the constant rise in energy costs. This is my first year of living in a student house, and in preparation for our new lives as fully-fledged adults, my housemates and I did a little research into the average electricity costs for a student household. We were confronted with a rather horrendous selection of scare stories, and so we quickly tried to block the subject from our minds. When the first bill of the year landed on our door step, there was a nervous gathering around the kitchen table, reminiscent of an exam results day where everyone is fairly sure that they have failed.
Upon opening the bill, we found that there was no six figure sum, and our bill turned out to be pretty reasonable. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the bills of our poor old university. The University of St Andrews has reduced its energy consumption since 2005 but the expenditure on energy has tripled, bringing the figure to around £5.4 million a year. This crippling statistic, along with the university’s commitment to green projects, has lead to a controversial proposal: the Kenly Wind Farm.
The proposal is for six two-megawatt wind turbines to be built at the site of an abandoned World War II airbase, just under 5 miles from the centre of St Andrews. This wind farm would produce enough electricity to cater for the energy consumption of the entire university, saving an impressive amount of money and reducing the carbon footprint of our town. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, apparently not.
Wind farms have somewhat of a sketchy reputation, with many people believing that they are inefficient, expensive to run and hard to maintain. There are a hundred other reasons that people don’t have faith in them but most of these are pretty sketchy themselves. Judging by the number of umbrellas that I have seen blown to disrepair over the past year, I think that it is safe to say that there is more than enough wind here to keep those turbines turning. In fact, most modern turbines produce electricity about 80% of the time, supplying enough energy to power 1000 homes. In terms of expense, wind power costs about the same as coal, and with wind power costs falling as fossil fuel power costs rise, wind power is set to become more and more competitive. It seems that the only substantial argument that anti-Kenly activists have is that these wind turbines may be a blemish on our countryside. I would argue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and surely the knowledge that you are helping the world to live more sustainably is more beautiful than any ‘undisturbed’ landscape.
For more information on the Kenly Wind Farm proposal visit http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/about/Sustainability/Windfarm/
Image credit – mark.seymour