Eighteen wind turbines, each five times higher than the Angel of the North, will be erected near Alnwick by the end of the year, the Gazette can reveal – with a further 10 set to follow.
The highly-controversial windfarm at Middlemoor, near North Charlton, was approved by the Government in August 2008, despite a storm of protest from residents and political leaders over the sheer scale of the scheme in what is an unspoiled upland setting.
But developer RWE npower renewables could not commence work until a solution had been found to satisfy the Ministry of Defence, which expressed serious concerns about the 125metre-high turbines’ impact on the RAF’s remote radar head (RRH) at nearby Brizlee Wood, which is integral to the UK’s air defences.
Now, defence contractor Serco has just announced that it has been awarded a new prime contract by the MoD to further deploy innovative new radar systems at Brizlee Wood and RRH Staxton Wold in North Yorkshire, worth £27million over two years.
And it means that RidgeWind Ltd, which has permission for a further 10 turbines at neighbouring Wandylaw, can also progress.
Because of the two sites’ close proximity, they will effectively create the largest windfarm cluster yet seen in England.
David Jones, aviation solutions manager for RWE npower renewables, said: “A number of renewable energy developers, including RWE npower renewables, have worked very closely with the MoD and Serco to find a solution that met the technical and operational requirements of the RAF to allow our windfarms to coexist with the MoD’s air defence activities.
“As a result of this activity in 2011, an estimated four gigawatts of renewable energy, enough to power over two million homes, is expected to be unlocked.
“In terms of Middlemoor, the radar solution will ensure progress on this site, which was consented in 2008.
“The 18 turbines will be erected by winter 2012 and the windfarm should be operating by spring 2013. This will result in enough energy to power the equivalent of up to 27,900 homes as well as a local community benefit fund of a minimum of £1,000 per megawatt for the lifetime of the windfarm.”
Ridgewind Ltd declined to comment on its plans.
A spokesman for Serco said: “We have been working with Lockheed Martin in the US to develop and provide radar technology that resists interference created by windfarm turbine blades; the lack of such technology had previously impeded the roll-out of windfarms in line-of-sight of air-defence radar stations.
“The innovative technological solution mitigates the problems posed by windfarms for UK air defence radar and, as a result, clears a path for the MoD and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to enable the further development of windfarms and so help the Government realise its target of reducing carbon emissions.”
During the Middlemoor public inquiry in November 2007, RAF experts said the proposed windfarm would ‘unacceptably compromise’ the national security of the UK.
During tests, it was heard, there had been ‘significant operational effects’ caused by turbines, such as obscuration of aircraft above the turbines, a shadow region behind the windfarm and radar returns from the spinning blades which caused clutter on the controller’s display.
Similar concerns halted RidgeWind’s development at Wandylaw, which was also controversially approved by then Secretary of State Hazel Blears in 2009, again despite massive local opposition.
County councillor John Taylor, who led the former Alnwick District Council’s objections to both schemes, said: “It is very disappointing. There was a hope that the radar issue would prove insurmountable and halt these windfarms.
“The objections raised during the public inquiry into Middlemoor, as well as the Wandylaw planning application, still stand. These turbines will have a massive impact on the local area.”
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