September 6, 2012

Six years on… and Totnes submits wind turbine plan

Western Morning News | 6 September 2012

A planning application has been registered for a community wind farm which has been in the pipeline for six years.

The Totnes Renewable Energy Society (Tresoc) was first formed after a 2006 meeting of Transition Town Totnes, which strives for a lower carbon society.

Now, its 500 members are celebrating the fact that a return on their £20 shares is a step closer, as the £6.2 million proposal for two 100-metre turbines between Totnes and Harbertonford finally enters the planning stage.

Tresoc spokesman Ian Bright said community engagement was key to garnering support. He acknowledged that the plan is controversial, but insisted that the majority supports turbines.

Mr Bright, a former renewable energy officer for Somerset County Council, said polls showed that 60 to 70 per cent of the public support wind energy, with the figure rising to 80 per cent among those who live near turbines.

He said wind was the most “cost effective and abundant” resource, and new sites were needed to meet government targets.

He said the site had been carefully chosen, but he recognised that some people were strongly opposed to the plans.

He said: “My approach is to give out as much information as we can, because the more people understand about wind turbines, the more they realise that they’re not going to mince all the birds for miles around, or reduce all the property values, and they won’t make loads of noise and send everybody mad.

“If someone was setting up a 100 metre structure within 100 metres of my house, of course I would want to find out all the information I could. But the way the antis operate is to target those households and feed them the most horrendous stories so they think their properties will be worth nothing, and that’s totally untrue.”

Tresoc is working in partnership with renewables company Infinergy on the project, which it is hoped will be decided by planning councillors at South Hams District Council this year.

Once completed, the two turbines would contribute up to 4.6 megawatts of locally installed renewable energy capacity and replace between 4,200 and 10,100 tonnes of CO2 every operational year.

Marlies Koutstaal, of Infinergy, said the level of community engagement in Totnes had been “impressive”, and said everyone would get to have their say through the planning process.

“The prospect of share ownership in the project has created an interest in a wide variety of aspects such as how the finance is organised and how the turbines would be operated and maintained.

“We are hoping that community ownership of renewables where communities and developers share in the revenue, generating low carbon energy for a sustainable future, will become more and more common in the UK.”

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