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Blowing in the Wind

Last week there was a meeting in our village to provide information for the commune inhabitants with regard to the proposed Project to erect a wind-farm on the edge of the commune. In fact the proposed wind-farm of 12 windmills impacts on four communes as the boundaries meet in the centre of the selected site.

I am sure Bob Dylan’s protest song of the 60ies, if written today, would still be anti-war and anti-racism but would also enfold today’s concern for the survival of our planet and be anti-pollution.

We all have to face the dilemma of today: how do we maintain our comfortable lifestyles; hot water on tap, electricity to power our computers, televisions, lighting etc., at a “reasonable” price; cars to enable us to enjoy our “country” life; cheap flights for that quick trip to the UK or on holiday; and yet accept global responsibility for the survival of our planet?

One small way towards this responsibility is the production of electricity by renewable means, non polluting, electricity production using wind power.

Yes, the current model of wind generator is tall – that means that maximum advantage can be taken of the higher, constant, upper wind, powering a larger generator and therefore more power with fewer structures.

Yes, they will impact on our view of the countryside around us, as do myriad other man-made structures we have come to accept over the years.

To me they do have a simple beauty and grace and I find the slow turning blade quite mesmerising.

Nothing remains the same; in the 12 years we have lived in this lovely corner of France we have seen hedges grubbed out to create larger fields for arable use; the mature cherry and walnut trees that lined our lane cut down by the farmer, for fear a high wind would bring them crashing down onto a car or person, leaving him liable. The village has installed street lights and we even have them at the top of our drive for a hamlet of four houses. So the starlight skies of our early years now pale beyond the light pollution created by this “facility”. The sometimes ugly, but somehow, typically French, water-towers now sprout mobile phone and TV relay masts, making them appear to have grown bristles, and we have accepted electricity poles and pylons for years.

France is committed in its undertaking to produce 15% of its energy by renewable means by 2012. However, they also have the problem of the aging nuclear power production; unlike the UK there does not seem to be a move to re-embrace this as a suitable form of electrical generation. We could plant all the fields with maize/corn to produce a bio-diesel fuel at the cost of food production and don’t forget the water shortages suffered last year when farmers crops failed due to lack of water – the most greedy in this area being maize/corn. So it may well be that wind power will be needed to provide much more than the small percentage currently talked about.

I am sure one day we will accept windmills on many open areas where farming can continue beneath, where any habitation is at least 500 mtrs away and the noise level at our houses is marginally more than normal. I did not understand all the figures, but it seemed to me that the presenters were talking about and increase of between 1 – 2 decibels over normal ambient noise. The birds on my roof each morning give it more than that! and I don’t complain.

How fortunate we are to be able to make the choice of where we live: to have the ability to purchase our little piece of paradise: does this freedom give us the right to demand that others should suffer something we are not prepared to accept for ourselves so that our enjoyment may continue?

We celebrate the fact that one can drive quickly and easily to the ports on a newly opened motorway but then protest vigorously at the idea of one passing close to our house – or take the TGV for a day out in Paris, but fight the idea of the line being extended on the edge of my commune.

The commune will benefit financially from the installation, in that the company will pay Taxe Professionale (business rates), on the profit each year, and hopefully this will mean that our Taxes Foncières will reflect the improved financial take in the commune, and the landowners will benefit from the rental they will receive for the use of their land.

There were two or three vocal protesters and their NIMBY attitude, I am ashamed to say, included a newly arrived British resident to the commune. The concern of course, was not the impact on the environment of the proposed wind-farm but the imagined reduction in the perceived value of their property.

One of the things I love and value about French living, is the sense of community; of rights with responsibilities; of sharing with neighbours, of a co-existence. If that could be replicated globally then maybe we would be singing “Times they are a-changing” and not just

“Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”


Papillon Properties Home

Susan Dixon
16 November 2006



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