Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Windfarms - "pros and antis: it's disconcerting how decent they all seem..."

Last Friday TRESOC held a Christmas party in the civic hall in Totnes. Updating our members on our numerous projects, we then continued to the OSTAS - where TRESOC awarded specific members for their commitment by giving them a trophy of huge significance - a cabbage (Savoy, if you're interested). Then wine and cheese to end evening. 
I was having a discussion with one of the lucky winners - Dan Findlay - about our flagship project -Totnes Community Wind Farm (TCWF). One of the key aspects that seems to surround onshore wind projects, is the divisions it can create in the community - as well as the Government. This reminded me of an article I had read the previous week on the issue, which struck a chord:
"Pros and antis: it is disconcerting how decent they all seem....... Vexingly, the two sides of this debate do not organise neatly along opposite straits: it's not as though the antis are fighting for the landscape, while the pros are fighting for the economy. Everyone's a conservationist; everyone's trying to secure a long-term energy future......"

These observations have become more and more obvious to me, after the talking to people on both sides during the past year. Both sides agree on the a lot of things other than onshore wind, and often have the same priorities and motivations. It is quite ridiculous - I don't fall out with my friends because they use an Apple Mac computer rather than a PC to blog. The one difference is amplified, whereas the similarities are acoustic whispers. This is the case in many issues that trouble society, including the debate surrounding onshore wind. So when there are headlines from the media claiming a 'broken community' due to TCWF, I am perplexed. Why should neighbours that have been friendly for decades, fall out over one issue they disagree on? They didn't agree on everything before. 

Clearly it's a highly emotive issue, that touches the core of what we value, and often, becomes part of our identity. So when disagreements occur they are undeniably personal. People are genuinely worried and concerned about their standard of life. But, there needs to be some sense of proportion. Our sense of community and neighbourliness is of more value than any one issue. 

We all want a viable future for our fragile environment and society. When we look objectively at the problem of securing our low carbon energy future locally, we simply cannot afford to ignore our cheapest and most widely available resource - onshore wind. 

We need to acknowledge the many similarities between the opposing sides, and also the difficulties people are experiencing, in order to have better conversations. I think this quote from the same article sums up some of my sentiments: 

"We are still the Saudi Arabia of wind, but you have to imagine us as an oil-rich country with a very strong objection to the extraction of oil, for reasons that are absolutely self-evident to half our parliament (and our communities) and totally obscure to the other half."

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The scale of Totnes Community Wind Farm

I recently posted a response the question raised by some opposing Totnes Community Wind Farm (TCWF) on Sarah Wollastons' (MP) website:

"I’m glad the issue of scale has been raised. They are large to produce as much renewable energy as possible. It would take 92 turbines of the size proposed at Foales Leigh (50kW – 46m to tip) to produce as much as the two turbines in our proposal (at max. capacity – not taking into account a lower capacity factor).Surely the cumulative impact (noise, energy, landscape) of that number is much larger?
This also serves to show the huge loss of generation when reducing the size of the turbine – half the height but only 2.2% of the capacity (compared with one 2.3MW turbine).  They are connected to the national grid because of the large amount of electricity produced – so it can go where the demand is. At present there is no other alternative local grid available. The scale of the community chosen - Totnes and its environs - was so that the necessary investment, skills and resources could be sourced. At a village scale it simply wouldn’t be possible to carry out a development of this size - £6million, 4.6MW – enough for 2500 homes." 

Photomontage of the proposed site

I hope this contains some insight for those involved in the conversation. I certainly learned something during the process.