Category: rant

Renewable energy: wind farms

I’ve been wanting to post something about this for quite a while. It’s a subject that seems rife with debate right now, and one that I think needs to be taken seriously, but I’m wary of striking up a debate that I just have no time for any more, having spent hours in the past searching Google for information and news.

Jo and I have a keen interest in wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy. While we lived in York, we kept up-to-date with a proposal for a wind farm near Selby in Yorkshire. Having met with complaints, particularly concerned with the welfare of local birdlife (claims downplayed by the RSPB), the wind farm now appears to be going ahead into planning stages.

Having just moved down to Devon, we’ve found that the area has much the same battle going on with wind farms. Jo’s written a bit on her blog on what she thinks about wind power and wind farms.

One proposed wind farm at Hinkley, near Bridgewater in Somerset, recently had planning permission refused. There were two cases against the proposed wind farm. Primarily, a report found that there may be a small risk of a blade breaking and hitting the nuclear power station that currently sits near the proposed site. The risk is tiny and the developer even said that they would agree to not build the three turbines nearest the power station that were considered a risk. Secondly, there was concern for a population of bats living in the area. Claims that the feeding routes of the bats would be disturbed were found to be unsubstantiated. The local council brought forward the date of the public consultation for this wind farm by one day. Permission was refused. Er, why?!

Another wind farm in the area is proposed for Batsworthy Cross, the highest point between Dartmoor and Exmoor. Great! It would be a good point for a farm.

At the EcoTech Centre in Swaffham, they have a turbine that you can go up in and see the view from their viewing platform. I wanted to go during the Wind Weekend over the August Bank Holiday, but we couldn’t make it. I think such a viewing platform would be a fantastic addition to the area, for example, at a good viewpoint such as Batsworthy Cross. Some seem to think wind turbines are ugly and will ruin the countryside and affect local tourism. I actually find wind turbines elegant and have been stunned by wind farms I have seen. One in particular I remember passing on the way back to York from a holiday in the Lake District via the moors. I wish I could remember whereabouts it was. If anything, I think a viewing platform would attract tourists to a wind farm rather than repelling them! We’ve been told there isn’t going to be one of these at Batsworthy though – a shame, but it’s not as if you don’t get good views from there anyway.

Some anti-wind groups seem to think that wind farms are not good enough at producing electricity. Firstly, I’d point out that there are other sources of renewable energy, so it’s not as if there aren’t other sources to help generate the power we need. It may not be as promising as other renewable energy technologies, but wind power is the most mature at the moment. So, what’s wrong with erecting wind farms, supporting them and the research into other forms of renewable energy? And what’s the alternative at the moment? Oh yeah – nuclear power plants. I would much rather see graceful wind turbines than the ugly power plants that scar the landscape. If you are anti-wind, are you saying that you would rather have one of these giant power plants in your back yard?

I resent the comment made by a speaker from the Realistic Energy Forum at a conference at the end of 2004, who said: “The younger people are, the less they know” when asked by a member of the audience whether it was mainly the older generation that opposed wind farms. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the younger generation might be the only ones with their heads screwed on, while all the council officials side with the (mostly minority) complaints of the uninformed. Also, it is the younger generations who will have to deal with the consequences of not doing enough now to lessen or stop global warming.

So, my closing thoughts on this one? Well, anyone who lives near a wind farm and can’t stand them, I’ll buy your house from you and install some solar panels on the roof.

Car Park Fine Update

Those bureaucratic, money-grabbing halfwits have missed the point again and have started making excuses.

For those who haven’t read my Too Conscious of Colour? rant, I visited my home town back at the beginning of April and got lumbered with a parking ticket. Nobody likes getting fined for stuff, but this was ridiculous. Sunday evening in a car park that’s always been free in the evenings with no apparent signage to tell me otherwise. I went back the next day after being told there was a blatant sign and found a small, white sign on the corner by the car park entrance.

The council have written back to me saying that the “small sign [I] refer to is in fact 1200mm x 1200mm and 2100mm high facing the entrance road in yellow, blue and orange. It is not insignificant and is a permanent fixture.” Well, that’s nice, but I was talking about the small sign and not the 2-metre-high sign. The sign that they’re on about doesn’t even mention the evening charges, so I guess I should be let off?

*thunk* Ouch!

They also mention that the lighting in the car park meets with BSI standards, which is nice. However, you still don’t see the sign which tells you about the car park charges do you?

Anyway, I’m fed up with the bureaucracy and the excuses. Maybe it’s time to let this one go.

Update, 11.07.2005

I ended up writing back to these people and made a further complaint to the council about the guy who I was handling my complaints. I received a letter back saying that they believed the signs were visible and adequate and that I was not entitled to my money back.

However, they were in agreement that the language and tone of the correspondence I received was inappropriate and not up to standard. I got a written apology and was told that a series of professional training programs had been propsed to improve correspondence skills. Whether this training will ever happen or not, I guess I’ll never know.

Too Conscious of Colour?

I’ve been needing to rant for some time now, but this isn’t the time. Besides, being an altogether irregular blog, this hasn’t really felt like the right outlet. Several experiences over the last few months have left me feeling unfairly treated, be it by companies or official bodies, but I think I’ll save ranting for later.

What’s this got to do with design? Well, in the fight back against these stubborn bastards, I’m becoming more familiar with certain organisations’ stationary or their approaches to design. In some cases, I’m starting to find that design is playing more of a role in how I perceive things.

I’ve never considered myself to be very visually creative (or not as much as I’d like to be), but I’m working on it. Anyway, I’m starting to find that design is affecting my perception of everyday things. Let me explain a little.

Example 1: Car Park Sign

Problem: I’ve been given a parking ticket, seemly the result of my inability to observe a sign at the entrance to a car park I have used all my life.

Aside from any of the other factors involved (I find the whole thing bloody unfair and will probably write more in a separate post/rant), the sole purpose of this sign is to warn visitors that evening charges have recently been imposed. With that in mind, does anyone else think that the following sign is fit for purpose?

The sign I'm on about is the unobvious one on the ground. Looking at that photo, how quickly did you figure out which sign I was talking about? It’s fairly small, at ground level, inadequately lit and has black text on a white background. The sign is placed on the bend that you drive around to enter the car park. You are hardly going to notice it.

My problems aside, black text on white is not an attention-grabbing combination. If you’re going to use it and want it to stand out, you’re probably going to have to make it quite big. Black text on white is found too often in everyday life to be effective in drawing attention. For this reason, there are actually requirements for such signs to be of a minimum size and fluorescent.

If I didn’t have an interest in design, I’m not sure whether I would have picked up on such a factor when making a case to the local council. Whether it is at all valid for me to make such a design consideration a factor here is probably irrelevant. I think I’m going to have to end up paying the f**king1 fine anyway.

Example 2: TV Licensing

Problem: TV Licensing are never happy with people who say that they don’t watch television. Alas, without a television, our DVD player and video recorder are rendered somewhat useless. Having previously explained our situation to TV Licensing, we find ourselves getting increasingly annoyed at the small tree’s-worth of correspondence we get through our door, bullying us with threats of being fined for not having a license.

Again, putting the problem aside, I’ll pick up on the use of the word “bullying” in my last sentence. Of all the correspondence we have received from TV Licensing, there have only been one or two letters that have not looked like a bill reminder or a demand for final payment.

A red TV License logo. The TV Licensing logo is blue. Everywhere you see the logo – on their website, vans, adverts (yes, we have seen adverts before) – it is blue. Except, when you get something through the post from them and the logo becomes red.

“Danger, Will Robinson. You don’t have a TV License and one of their officers will soon be visiting your neighbourhood.”

Overall, I think TV Licensing need to rethink their strategy. Red logos and red borders on everything doesn’t really help, especially when your reader is already in a pissed off frame of mind.

Update: I thought I’d share this interesting page about TV Licensing that recently linked to this post. It led me to find a post with some interesting statistics based on one person’s letters from TV Licensing. There’s even stats for the colour of the logo and border of the letters, which made my day!

Er, so?

Am I too conscious of colour in design? Do you think I’m being a complete pedant, or does this make sense to you? Have you found yourself thinking similar things, where a design just hasn’t seemed to lend itself to its purpose?

Note: my first f-bomb on a blog – perhaps unnecessary, but it made me feel a bit better and shows how pissed off I am. I’m normally a really clean-mouthed guy – honest – so I’ve at least added an asterisk. back from footnote 1.

What the hell happened to Lycos Mail?

The Lycos Mail (UK) front page currently boasts the following testimonial for its free 300 Mb e-mail accounts: Lycos Free Email is the best designed Free email out there. Period. Well, not in my experience it isn’t.

Once upon a time I got fed up with the increasingly large amount of spam ending up in my Hotmail account. I was also getting annoyed with the stupidly low 2 Mb mail quota. Lycos Mail boasted a 15 Mb quota and POP3 support as a bonus for when I didn’t need to use Web mail. Fantastic. A couple of months later, support for POP3 stops and a redesign with some funky JavaScript starts throwing Mozilla browsers into a frenzy. Lycos Mail was no longer viable for me, so I went back to my Hotmail spam account.

Of course, now none of this really matters as I host my own e-mail accounts, which I can access via the Web if needed. However, my girlfriend still uses Lycos Mail and I don’t think there’s ever a time I don’t hear cursing when she’s checking her Lycos accounts. Where did it all go wrong, Lycos?

Update, 15.02.2006