It was an open day at Helland Barton, in Cornwall, organised by wind turbine makers, Segen. The Gaia 133 is the model we’re looking at for the farm and I particularly wanted to hear it. Guests come to our self catering accommodation for the peace and quiet, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardise that.
Tony, one of our neighbours, came with us. How can I put it? The best site for the turbine is directly in his and Sally’s line of sight from their kitchen window, albeit a field away. And unlike us, they are not avid wind turbine supporters. (Fair enough Sally?! 🙂 ) They wouldn’t mind if it was somewhere else, but do mind seeing it in their view. So thanks for coming along to actually look at the thing.
Laurence, from Greenthinking (who did our wind turbine site survey) was there, and on chatting all agreed the next step for us was for him come back and look at other sitings – to advise on whether they are viable given any likely drop in generating efficiency.
Wind turbines are surprisingly polarising things. They’re still relatively new, and at the moment people either love them or hate them. So I feel this discussion process is worth sharing because it’ll be being played out all across the country, at various scales (eg the Glyndebourne opera house 70m turbine approved after much wrangling last year) and at various levels of animosity (I’m thinking of the Cumbrian school where even an existing tower – taller than the proposed 18m turbine – didn’t lessen entrenched opposition).
So, for the debate, – these are my views, and I’ve already declared where I stand…
As soon as we drove into Cornwall, there were turbines everywhere. Wow! I’m thinking – They’ve gone to town on turbines. They’re really ahead of Devon – is it public opinion or planning policy that suddenly changes over the border?
We went past some wind farms. From a distance I thought they must be pretty big structures compared to what we wanted. They were sturdy things with robust towers. But when we got closer they didn’t seem so tall. Oh dear! I mean I like them, but they did look fairly ‘dominant’ in the landscape. How did they compare to the 18m Gaia we were thinking about? So it was a considerable relief, when we got closer, to spot the Gaia in the landscape and get a ‘Oh – is that it?’ feeling.
The Gaia is slender, and much more elegant than the turbines we’d passed. I didn’t think it looked at all out of place (yes, I know I would say that).
And the noise? When we got there it was a breezy day. Maybe force 3? We walked up a muddy track towards the turbine and I heard an almost-whistling noise. Oh dear again… but no – it was the noise of rain water flowing through a channel under a cattle grid. It wasn’t until we were in the field that you could hear the turbine above the normal background noise of the hedgerow trees in the wind. Yes, stand near it and you can hear it. But it wasn’t noisy. I didn’t find it offensive even right up close. We walked around it, took a few video clips for the blog (and Sally, who couldn’t come), and paced out 100m to see what it might sound (and look) like from Tony’s house – although it’s not necessarily the same I know…
And I know that just because I would be happy to look at it out of my window (enjoy actually), that doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same. So we will see if it can be put elsewhere.
One idea would be to put it much closer to our own house (fair suggestion) in the corner of the top paddock where our sheep are. And having seen it I think that would be fine, even though it’s probably half the distance from the nearest dwelling (ours this time!). But the house itself may be the problem, and it’s why this site wasn’t really considered first time around. Laurence says the turbulence a structure generates affects air flow for roughly twice the height and 20 times the length of that structure. So would the turbine be in the ‘shadow’ of the house? Hopefully he can give us more detail soon.
And if there is no viable alternative site?
I don’t know. I want Euan to be able to make his kids a tractor birthday cake in a world not entirely wrecked by climate change. I believe that’s a fight worth joining and one that demands action on all our parts. So I truly hope we can find a solution.
Meanwhile, here’s the clip. And it sounds louder on the tape than it did standing there (and of course there’s noise from the wind and the fairly-oldfashioned camcorder). But if you’re thinking about one of these but have concerns I really recommend going to see it for yourself.