It may add a surreal edge to performances of Don Quixote but the huge wind turbine, launched by Sir David Attenborough on the site of an old windmill above Glyndebourne, is already making a noise that protesters claim will ruin opera-goers’ picnics.
The television presenter described wind turbines as “elegant structures in harmony with nature”.
The 85-year-old, who has been coming to the opera since the 1950s but does not live in the area, said the 230ft turbine in the heart of a National Park must be welcomed and encouraged other communities to accept wind power.
“Wind power can never provide for all our wants but every bit of power generated by wind must be welcomed,” he said. “Even if we only generate a fraction of what our country needs in this way, then we must.”
Sir David said the “rhythmic noise of wind” is trivial compared to mechanical sounds like aircraft noise and the health problems caused by pollution for fossil-fuelled power stations.
“To suggest the rhythmic puff of wind is comparable to the death of thousands of people through lung disease is laughable,” he added.
Gus Christie, executive chairman of Glyndebourne Productions Ltd and grandson of the founder John Christie, said the turbine will ensure 90 per cent of the electricity required to run the famous opera house will come from renewable energy.
He insisted the noise is not a problem and the turbine will be turned off if it goes above a certain level.
The wind turbine will make back the £1.5 million cost within six years and then generate money for the opera house through Government subsidies so electricity is much cheaper and perhaps even make a profit.
Glyndebourne also has an electric car charging point for customers and “comprehensive” recycling scheme.
“I believe this turbine is symbolic or our age and an object of beauty as it harnesses the wind to provide sustainable power.”
But Prof Tony Parker, a retired engineer leading protests in the nearby village, said the “whumpf, whumpf” noise of the turbine was already causing a nuisance – even in moderate winds.
He said the noise could be a serious problem during the opera summer festival when hundreds of people picnic in the grounds of the country house.
He estimated that the 900KW turbine will also be one of the most inefficient in the country, only generating power 17 per cent of the time.
“It’s output is abysmal and the noise is already a problem,” he said.
The wind turbine, on a hill overlooking the opera house in the heart South Downs National Park, was also opposed by the Ramblers’ Association and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) but planners decided the benefit of a major arts venue demonstrating the advantages of renewable power outweighed the aesthetic costs.
Sir David that the ruin of a windmill is still on the site.
“If the windmill was still here and someone suggested tearing it down there would be an outcry,” he said. “Respect for history is fine but we also need to have respect for future generations.”
“I think the wind turbine is a most elegant structure in harmony with nature.”
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