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United Kingdom

Green credentials slipping

Six years ago this magazine buried its pioneering image in a new design. The aim was to give it the look of a serious business publication. In those days, wind's lack of commercial and professional credibility was one of its biggest hurdles and, as we stated at the time, our aim was to present a magazine which could "do justice to wind energy's new status as a means of power generation which is here to stay." The fight for recognition for wind energy in the late 1980s was tough, but the business had an advantage over many others: it was driven by visionaries blessed with moral integrity. Here was an industry whose goal was not to simply make money, but also to clean up the environment.

What happened? How is it that in Britain today there are people branding wind companies as unscrupulous profiteers who have ruthlessly exploited the goodwill of misguided green politicians (see pages 23-26)? Whether this is true or not is beside the point. It is this perception of the wind industry as the villain of the piece which is so dangerous to its future. The battle for credibility is all but won, yet the war has been given a new lease of life. And, with recent events in Spain as an example (see pages 16-17), is it any wonder that the perception of wind as something nasty is gaining ground? When a wind company announces that not only is it going ahead with a project in the face of massive opposition from environmentalists, but that it would rather pay compensation for bird deaths than move to a site where they would not occur, then moral integrity starts wearing extremely thin. The environmental argument for wind is one of its strongest. Take away wind's green credentials, lose the support of environmentalists, then wind has a bleak near term future.

For five years this column -- with various contributors -- has repeatedly warned against the steady erosion of the wind movement's founding values; not because of any starry-eyed wonder for the technology, but because preservation of these values is fundamental to the existence of the wind market. Behind the scenes -- and often from unexpected quarters -- we have been supported for this stance, not least after publication four months ago of photographs of birds injured by wind turbines in Spain. Our warnings, though, have gone unheeded where they mattered most. Is it not time for the visionaries to unearth their pioneering roots, join with environmentalists, and find a new path for wind where moral integrity is alive and well? After all it was the visionary Jerry Brown, Governor of California in the early eighties, who got the wind market seriously moving in the first place.

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