Scilly is one of the windiest locations in the UK.
And that message was driven home at the Isles of Scilly Renewable Energy Co-operative AGM at the Wesleyan Chapel last night. It was written on a banner display.
Members heard that wind turbine consultants, Sykamore, were ‘amazed‘ at how viable wind power is in Scilly.
The group has had access to over 20 years’ worth of wind data from St Mary’s airport.
Their report says feedback has been positive. A tiny minority have directly stated opposition to a small wind turbine but the majority of respondents have expressed support for a project, subject to it being sited in a properly considered and appropriate location.
Their £8,000 study earlier this year has now indentified 20 suitable sites for turbines on all the islands.
Small sites have been selected for Porthellick on St Mary’s, Middle Town on St Martin’s and Carters Lane, St Agnes.
The larger sites aren’t being made public because residents haven’t been consulted yet, but sites around Telegraph and the airport, where there is already visual intrusive from existing installations, are being considered.
Jonathan Smith, who was re-elected to the Chairmanship of the group, confirmed that any turbines could not go on Wildlife Trust land or near any archaeological sites
Member Mike Gurr was worried about how turbines could affect bats and birds. Those concerns would be taken seriously.
And Jonathan said the special landscape of Scilly would be considered in any plans.
He feels it is hard to gauge visitors opinion but he quoted a Scottish survey which claimed 93% of visitors to areas with turbines wouldn’t be dissuaded from returning.
Jonathan gave the example of a wind farm in Swaffham, which had become a tourist attraction.
He says that many visitors would wish to see that sustainable power was being generated here.
Penny Rogers felt that the consultants were dismissive when questioned about noise but Jonathan said a Cornish farming colleague has a turbine that’s inaudible 100m away and rules prevent their placement near to housing.
A Cornish acoustic company has offered to advise islanders living near to any planned turbines. Noise would be measured against the local ambient sound level.
The figures suggest that the bigger the installation, the better the return.
The smallest, 18m-high tower would generate 5kW, enough to power up to 6 houses. It would pay back the £36,000 cost in 4.3 years.
With a smaller model, the electricity unit price would be 18p. The cheapest mains tariff is currently around 12p per unit but the meeting heard that price will likely rise in the future.
A 20m-high, 20kW turbine would cost £111,000 and would generate power at 11p a unit and be in the black in 3.25 years.
There’s no clear plan for funding yet but Local Action Group or public subscription could raise the cash.
There is support for the local community benefiting from reduced prices and some locals could fund schemes.
ISREC also shared their recent survey findings. 117 people responded and 80% were local.
91% felt solar or PV power generation would be appropriate for Scilly while 79% felt the same for wave power and 65% backed tidal sources, although the meeting heard that the technology isn’t there yet.
63% of those polled felt wind power was appropriate.
That ties in with a national IPSOS survey, which claimed that 67% of British people back wind power. Nationally 3% are strongly opposed.
ISREC will continue to consult locals. Mark Prebble said they would “take it stage by stage” and present the community with options.
Their consultants have advised getting the public on board.
There’ll be more discussion with the Duchy, Wildlife Trust and Council too.
Jonathan said the Council’s Planning Policy document doesn’t make much mention of wind power and he personally feels that’s a political decision.
Chief Planning Officer, Craig Dryden, who wasn’t at the meeting, says his team would determine any application for a wind turbine on its individual merits and in accordance with the Council’s Development Plan.
The potential benefits of renewable energy would be weighed against any visual impact of a proposal on the character and appearance of the AONB and Conservation Area by reason of its design, scale and siting.
A trial installation could be one of their next options although the previous Mount Todden turbine trial has been dismissed due to the inefficiency of earlier technologies.
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