Paris Turbines & the Death of the NIMBY

The news titled “Paris Putting Turbines in the Seine” made my heart miss a beat yesterday.  The war against the NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) was dead.  Unfortunately I was mistaken.  No wind turbines were going to be put in the Seine but rather underwater tidal turbines.  Why my heart first fluttered was the power of this message.  The arguably most beautiful city of Europe was going to plant what many see as grotesque scenery slaying monsters in its majestic river.  The NIMBY would have been defeated; What is good enough for Paris must be good enough for the world.  How can we slay the NIMBY?

Nimbyism is rife.  Airports, Nuclear Power Stations, Power Cables, Wind Turbines all are campaigned against and forced into long planning hearings and many eventually get reduced in scale, forced into another back yard or cancelled.  Much Nimbyism is largely understandable.  Would you want these sitting just around the corner?  Airports mean noise and pollution, nuclear power means possible death through radiation, power cables may cause cancer and wind turbines spoil the view.  Spoils the View!?

This of course upsets me because wind energy is progress.  When I see wind turbines my heart lifts because I think there is 100% clean energy.  With the largest turbines a single rotation creates enough energy to boil a bath tub of ice cold water.  They are a force for good.

Wind turbines are replacing other power sources such as coal and nuclear.  Now would the NIMBYs really prefer such a plant in their back yard?  Clearly no.  So how did these power plants get built?  They got built because they are not dependent on location.  Hidden in existing industrial parks or placed in poor neighbourhoods they did not feel the full rage of the NIMBY.

The characteristics of a NIMBY are generally the following: middle-class, well-educated and generally rural.  The wind turbine wanted to share their hill and the NIMBY was infuriated.  The traditional NIMBY reasoning of health could not be used.  Instead they complained about the scenery.  Amazingly and disgustingly this argumentation worked. 100s of Wind Parks across Europe and the USA have been delayed, reduced in scale or simply refused.

Wind energy is a force for good however its first years have been a difficult birth.  This could have been made easier.  In Denmark 20% of energy is already powered by the wind.  The main difference between Denmark and countries such as Germany, UK, USA and France are who owns the turbines.  In Denmark wind turbines are generally locally owned.  In other countries the growth has been more central.  When the NIMBY profits from the turbine then the view is suddenly irrelevant.  The Danish proverb “your own pigs do not smell” provides the answer to killing Nimbyism.

The development of offshore wind will probably result in peace rather than turbines in the Seine.  Wind farms are now being agreed on a larger and larger scale.  The London Array off the Coast of England – 341 Turbines will power 750, 000 Homes, Thanet again England – 100 Turbines with 3 MW each will  remove another 240,000 Homes from the grid.  These will be dwarfed by what is in the pipeline.  All is not lost, however the NIMBY has delayed the fight against climate change.

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