Like it or loathe it, Somerset’s first giant wind turbine is up and turning despite opposition from locals and wind power sceptics including Sir David Bellamy and Noel Edmonds.
Some have welcomed its arrival at Shooters Bottom, Chewton Mendip, while others say it ruins the panoramic views across the famous limestone hills.
Ecotricity, the Gloucestershire-based company that installed the turbine says it will produce enough electricity for 2,031 homes – equivalent to five per cent of households in the district, while cutting carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions.
The parish council, a local campaign group, and Mendip District Council opposed the plan because of its impact on the landscape. A planning inspector accepted the point, but recommended it go ahead to help meet green energy targets. The original application was for a turbine more than 300ft tall, but the completed mast is 201ft, with a rotor diameter of about 70m and a capacity of two megawatts.
Ecotricity argues that with the energy crisis beginning to bite across the world, “Somerset’s one-and-only large-scale renewable project is a bit little and a bit late”.
It quoted positive comments from the public, including one person who said: “I work just a few miles away at Clapton near Midsomer Norton, and I am hoping that we will be able to see the turbine at the factory.” Another said: “It’s time I had one in my field as well, as it is always windy up here.”
But Richard St John, chairman of Chewton Mendip Parish Council, yesterday said: “I think it looks worse than I expected, and we have got to live with it for the rest of our lives. It is a monstrous intrusion on our skyline. We tried to get it turned down but we were over-ruled by outsiders.”
Mendip district councillor Ronald Forrest, who represents St Cuthbert Out North, said: “These things produce a piffling amount of electricity and they spoil the landscape – they make no contribution to saving the planet but are highly profitable to developers. We must go nuclear.”
Half the counties in England still do not have a wind turbine, but Ecotricity says that with the Government pushing for more than 20 per cent of electricity from renewables, that needs to change.
Somerset has been set a target of 75MW of new renewable electricity generating capacity by 2010, a target supported by the county council.
Ecotricity managing director Dale Vince said: “Gordon Brown should be looking closer to home for the answer to the looming energy crisis.
“Britain has already found a new North Sea oil, with enough untapped energy to power the whole country three or four times over. It’s onshore wind energy.
“The one thing holding it back? A planning system that was not designed for it and is not fit for purpose. Gordon Brown needs to tackle this issue urgently so that wind energy can give us back our energy independence.”
Somerset currently generates 8MW from landfill gas. Somerset County Council is looking at wind farm development on county-owned land with public consultation and engagement, and also plans to generate 15MW through waste wood and paper with planning consent.
5 June 2008
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