Definition of beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

11th Apr 2022


Last week, ahead of the publication of the Government’s Energy Security review, the debate in the energy world centred on whether onshore windfarms were an “eyesore” or were they “attractive”. I must admit to being ambivalent to this debate.

They are man-made structures, artificially placed in the landscape. To me they are functional, if I don’t have to see them great, but if they perform a key task for society, then so be it. Mobile phone masts are hardly pretty, but without mobile reception, the world seemingly comes to an end. And existing electricity pylons are hardly a thing of beauty but without them, we would struggle to be the developed nation we are.

So let’s call out those framing the onshore wind debate in terms of beauty. Such comments either minimise the importance of the debate (namely securing low carbon energy cheaply) or worse, it risks another bout of elitism pouring forth. If you do think such structures are attractive, great that’s your opinion, but don’t expect everyone to agree. And certainly don’t suggest that because you do, then others should, because you know best.

I sit in the realist camp. The more wind power we have the better, provided there is built in resilience for electricity supply when the wind doesn’t blow. And when there is too much wind, and supply exceeds demand, then let’s not waste the power but instead store it. This is where green hydrogen earns its place. For producers, earning a revenue stream rather than relying on constraint payments that risk getting smaller over time, is a good thing. Storing a gas, with the flexibility to use it when needed, is common sense. Using it to deal with peak energy demands, again, an obvious security of supply gain.

Imagine having local windfarms, producing green hydrogen, supplying local people with heating, hot water and cooking. All backed up by a nation-wide grid of pipes to carry the hydrogen gas to areas without local supply, or at times of local need. I can’t be the first to think of this idea can I? We could call it a national grid, or something like that. Now that’s what I call attractive.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CEO