A breathtaking sight awaits those who travel to the southernmost tip of Hawaii’s stunningly beautiful Big Island, though it’s not in any guidebook. On a 100-acre site, where cattle wander past broken ‘Keep Out’ signs, stand the rusting skeletons of scores of wind turbines.
Just a short walk from where endangered monk seals and Hawksbill turtles can be found on an unspoilt sandy beach, a technology that is supposed to be about saving the environment is instead ruining it.
In other parts of the U.S., working wind turbines are killing hundreds of thousands of birds and bats each year, but here the wildlife can perch on the motionless steel blades.
If any spot was tailor-made for a wind farm it would surely be here. The gales are so strong and relentless on the tip of South Point that trees grow almost horizontally.
Yet the 27-year-old Kamaoa Wind Farm remains a relic of the boom and inglorious bust of America’s so-called ‘wind rush’, the world’s first major experiment in wind energy.
At a time when the EU and the British Government are fully paid-up evangelists for wind power, the lesson from America — and the ghostly hulks on this far-flung coast — should be a warning of their folly.
Few people were talking about saving the planet back in the early Eighties. The wind rush was a free-for-all in which get-rich-quick companies exploited ridiculously generous tax breaks to pepper the States with thousands of wind turbines.
For anyone who has questioned Downing Street’s controversial pledge — spurred on by EU green targets — to give £400 million-a-year subsidies to wind farms as well as hefty bribes to landowners in order to spur the building of an additional 4,500 turbines, the wind rush may sound eerily familiar.
Indeed, America’s growing band of wind sceptics insist that what happened three decades ago in the U.S. could easily recur over the next few years in the UK if the wheels come off the wind energy gravy train once again.
So what went wrong? It started with the late Seventies oil crisis that convinced America it had to look around for other sources of power. For a time, wind power was considered to be a serious alternative to fossil fuels.