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BT confirms Goonhilly vision

An audacious plan has been unveiled to harvest the power of the wind by building a series of giant turbines in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

British Telecom yesterday announced it wants to build one of its first wind farms at its Earth Station at Goonhilly on the Lizard Peninsula.

The multi-million-pound plans are part of sweeping moves by the company to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by erecting turbines at sites across the UK.

“It is groundbreaking,” said Ralph Steffen, managing director of BT Operate, the technical arm of the company, who outlined the plan in front of a specially invited audience of Cornish business leaders and members of the environmental sector.

In the first instance BT is seeking permission to put up a test mast which will collect wind data for 12 months.

Then the company will be applying for the green light to erect a wind farm, estimated at comprising between three to six turbines up to 80m tall.

The company admitted it was expecting complaints from environmentalists concerned about preserving the unique landscape of Goonhilly, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

However, it points out that Goonhilly is home to many very unnatural-looking objects in the form of around 60 satellite dishes, which make up a communications base.

Last year, BT announced it was to move that part of the operation to Herefordshire and as a result many of the dishes will be demolished.

One dish to remain is the iconic Grade II listed 1,100-tonne Antenna No 1 – or Arthur as it known – where the first live images from the US were beamed into British living rooms.

“We are under no illusions that this will be a very challenging project in front of us,” Mr Steffen said.

“We know it is difficult and we know there will be hurdles – but we know there will be solutions.”

The announcement was given support by Jonathan Porritt, the environmentalist, government adviser and founder of the sustainable development charity Forum for the Future.

In a video shown at the launch, he warmly welcomed BT’s commitment to obtaining its energy from renewable resources.

Cornish business leaders also backed the plan.

Thelma Sorensen, chairman of the Cornwall Economic Forum, said: “You have the support of the business community in this.”

However, David Biggs, a member of Camborne Town Council and former operations manager at the site, expressed concerns about its impact on high-tech jobs there.

He said he was concerned that it would be the “death” of satellite communications jobs at Goonhilly – an assertion rejected by Mr Steffen.

Mr Biggs also raised fears about the impact of turbines on radar.

“We are very mindful about the effects it could have, but we are confident that the both technologies can exist on the site,” Mr Steffen said.

So far, the Lizard Peninsula Friends of the Earth group has declined to comment until members have seen the full details of the plan.

By Lyn Barton


19 October 2007