November 24, 2007

Wind Farm Inquiry Day 8 — Morning

Visual impact from proposed wind turbines will be increased by the sheer scale of their rotors, rather than just their height, an landscape expert has warned.

Geoffrey Sinclair, who has a 40-year background as a consultant in rural land use and landscape issues throughout the UK, gave his evidence on Friday morning.

During his career, he has been involved in about 200 wind power proposals and Middlemoor is his 58th public inquiry.

But during his evaluation of npower renewables’ proposals, he drew attention to the actual rotor sweep for each of the 18 turbines.

The issue, he said, had already been given significant weight at earlier public inquiries in England and Wales, where wind farms had been refused on grounds of visual impact.

Referring to Middlemoor, Mr Sinclair said: “The nearest relatively recent installations are at Black Hill and Crystal Rig in the Lammermuir Hills”

“Even though these are both substantial installations and are widely regarded as having large turbines, it can be seen that in terms of visual impact, the Crystal Rig blades each sweep less than 80 per cent of those proposed at Middlemoor, and the Black Hill blades sweep under half.

“Moreover, the Middlemoor blades will rotate around a hub that is actually higher than the blade tip at Black Hill. A visit to see that installation and Crystal Rig is recommended.

“The Crystal Rig and Black Hill turbines are located in a large scale moorland landscape, not settled more intimate countryside.

“The machines at Black Hill are shorter than the towers proposed for Middlemoor.

“The familiar Dun Law turbines, either side of the A68 en route to Edinburgh, are of a slightly older design and though apparently substantial, are in a lower band of visual significance.

“Their towers are smaller than each of the proposed Middlemoor blades, their height to blade tip is less than the proposed hub height, and they sweep only 27 per cent of the area of the proposed machines.

“Further comparisons of these characteristics may be readily made in relation to the other turbines in Northumberland.

“For example the nearby Kirkheaton turbines sweep less than a quarter of the area of those proposed while revolving around an axis which is little more than half as high.”

And he added: “The proposed 125m turbines are the biggest size yet used in multiple onshore installations in the UK, and this installation would be far larger than any group yet built.

“Local and distant horizons are clear and important in Northumberland which is a county of expansive, visually available and largely unimpaired vistas.

“This is therefore a vulnerable and a sensitive landscape setting for the largest turbines yet assembled in such a group in the UK.

“They would be impertinent, assertive and out of place. The aggressive design of the site, up-front and unavoidable from the A1, skylined from the wide coastal plain, and intrusive upon the flanks of the sandstone hills, would make 18 of the UK’s largest turbines seem more like a greater number, and would project its visual impacts onto a vulnerable landscape without subtlety or sympathy.

“If the project were consented alongside the Wandylaw project, there would be a single power station of 28 of the UK’s largest turbines.”

In his cross-examination, however, npower’s advocate Marcus Trinick said Mr Sinclair’s issue of rotor sweep bore “no relation to reality”.

“If the viewer is to appreciate the total area of sweep, they would need to see the total number of turbines,” he said. “Plainly, that cannot happen because some would visually overlap.”

Mr Sinclair responded: “The methodology is designed to give a broad indication, and I fully accept that a viewer will see turbines both head on and from the side.

“If the turbines overlap, then the effect is intensified.”

But Mr Trinick replied: “I know what you say about broad effect, but it’s entirely fanciful to suggest that you can quantify the amount of visual impact in this way.

“There is no relation to reality here at all.”

Northumberland Gazette

23 November 2007

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