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The Wind-Farm controversy

Plans to upgrade a "wind farm" for generating electricity, on a hilltop half a mile from the Lake District National Park, have caused a big argument among British conservationists

One of the wind turbines on Kirkby Moor

   Since 1993, twelve big wind turbines have stood on  Kirkby Moor, a windy hilltop in the north of England. Now, the company that operates the site, RWE Energy, wants to replace the existing turbines, which are 45 metres high, with six new ones, 115 metres high.
    These turbines will produce more clean renewable energy, but some people do not want them. The wind farm is less than a kilometre from the edge of the Lake District National Park, and is visible for miles around. The site  is also classified as an SSSI, or Site of Special Scientific Interest, on account of  its wildlife.
    When the first wind farm was planned, an official inspector was appointed to study the controversy: he decided that the wind farm would not have any major ecological consequences, but "the visual impact of the scheme would be sufficiently harmful". The new 115-metre wind turbines will be even more visible.
    Almost everyone agrees that we must produce clean renewable energy; but wind-farms have always been controversial. Some people love them, others do not want them on aesthetic grounds. Do we need massive wind power generators in beautiful parts of the countryside?

In favour of wind-farms

    *    "Britain is a windy country, and it ought to make use of its wind. If that means putting wind farms on top of every windy hill in Britain, then that's what we ought to be doing. It's just ridiculous to say "Stop, you can't put a wind farm there because this is a National Park, or near a National Park, and wind farms don't look pretty!" It just happens that most of the windy mountains in England and Wales are in National Parks, or on National Trust land near the coast.
    *    "Some people say wind farms are ugly; but this is rather hypocritical; they just don't want to see any signs of the times on their favourite bits of pretty countryside. It's like the people who complain about new high-speed railways. Half of them commute into London every day, and use roads and railway lines; yet they complain as soon as someone suggests building something near them. It's the NIMBY syndrome; Not In My Back Yard. You can build your wind farms and high speed lines and prisons and factories and rubbish dumps wherever you like, as long as it's not near me. These people say they're conservationists, but if you ask me they're just jumping on the green bandwaggon to defend their own interests.

Questions of aesthetics are not really important; what is important is that we move over to clean energy sources as fast as possible, and get rid of pollution and the nuclear risk. That's the real issue. After all, if we don't, we'll end up destroying the environment that National Parks are meant to protect, through pollution and climate change."

Against wind-farms

    *    We've already lost most of our natural environment in England, and thousands of kinds of plants and insects and animals have disappeared. It's absolutely essential that we protect what is still left. The answer isn't to build more power stations, whatever sort of energy they use; it's to use less energy — make people use more public transport and less fuel.
    *    O.K., we should be using more renewable energy, but we've got to find a balance between energy and the environment. Some places have got to be protected from development, and National Parks more than any other areas. That's what they exist for! Of course Kirkby Moor is just outside a park, but it's close enough to affect the park.
    *    There are plenty of other places where wind farms can be built. Besides, wind power isn't the only form of renewable energy. There's wave power too; that's what we really ought to be developing. Floating wave power generators could produce all the electricity Britain needs, and they wouldn't cause any problems.
    *    We don't need renewable energy. Nuclear power is the answer; it's clean and safe, as long as it is properly looked after. Nuclear waste's a problem today, admittedly, but scientists are sure to come up with a way of treating it effectively, one of these days.
    *    The government inspector said that the project should not go ahead, and he should know what he's talking about. Kirkby Moor is a beautiful part of Britain, and it shouldn't be disfigured. If you build a wind farm, that means putting up buildings too, and overhead power lines; there'll be people working there to run the place too. Another bit of unspoilt countryside will be disfigured.

Word guide
conservationist: person who wants to protect nature - upgrade: modernise - on account of: because of - wildlife: nature - appoint: nominate - it happens: it is a fact National Trust land: land that is protected - commute: travel to work - back yard: back garden - rubbish dump: place where we put things that we throw away -environment: the world around us - power-station: place where electricity is generated - waste: what is thrown away, not used  -  run: operate - unspoilt : attractive, natural. 

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Student worksheet

The Wind Farm Controversy

Here are eleven expressions used in the  text. Each one is followed by a definition... but four of these definitions are definitely wrong! Which ones? Suggest correct definitions to replace those that are wrong.

  1. on aesthetic grounds: for aesthetic reasons
  2. the NIMBY syndrome: people who are totally opposed to all forms of progress.
  3. as long as: on the condition that
  4. jumping on the green bandwaggon: saying they are concerned by the environment, because it is a popular thing to say.
  5. move over to: abolish
  6. get rid of: abandon
  7. the real issue: the fundamental answer.
  8. admittedly: that is indeed true
  9. come up with a way: look for a method
  10. should not go ahead: ought to be abandoned
  11. overhead power lines: electric cables in the air

This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress renewed 2023.

Revised version . Originally published in Freeway, the intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

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For teachers

Group activity / extended role play.
The public enquiry.  RWE Energy have announced their plans to replace the existing wind turbines at Kirkby Moor with 6 new turbines that are 115 metres high. Local conservationists and residents are strongly against the project. Have students read and study this document carefully. Then, if you are working with a small class (9 or less) divide the class into two groups; one group represents RWE Energy and an environmental group that is strongly in favour of wind farms; the other represents local residents and a group called the "Friends of the Lake District". One student will act as the president of the Enquiry.
   Once students have had time to prepare their arguments, have them conduct a debate in class, for or against the redevelopment of the Kirkby Moor wind farm.

  If you are working with larger groups, divide the class into groups of 7 to 9 students, and get each group to prepare their arguments.

  Alternatively ; set this writing exercise.
  Yesterday, in Kirkby, there was a Public Enquiry into the development of the Kirkby Moor wind farm.
   Write an imaginary article for the Kirkby News, describing the Enquiry. You will need to say who was there, what they said, what the public thought, and what conclusion was reached.

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Intermediate level EFL resource
Level -  Intermediate.
CEF Level B2 - C1
IELTS Level 6.5
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
67 - Plain English
Grade level: 8.1

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