Residents in West Huntspill are battling plans for four 400ft-tall turbines in the heart of their community.
The energy provider, Ecotricity, is Britain’s largest independent producer of wind energy. It is responsible for the turbine alongside the M4 near Reading and, closer to home, the 2MW turbine at Shooter’s Bottom, Chewton Mendip, which has been in operation since June 2008.
It is a struggle which will steadily become more of a concern for us as a nation as the Government looks to replace more of our energy needs currently supplied by coal, oil and gas to these renewable technologies.
Ecotricity states that the site at Black Ditch, named after the rhyne which runs through it, is an appropriate location for the proposed wind farm and would generate enough energy to power almost 6,800 homes. It also offers a financial incentive in terms of an annual fund of £9,200 which local residents could apply for over the 25-year lifespan of the proposed turbines.
The company champions wind energy as an endless resource, which Britain has in abundance and causes no pollution.
It published a performance report on 12th February for its Shooter’s Bottom turbine illustrating the quantities of energy produced on the Mendip Hills last year. The full report is viewable here
Nick Osbourne, Ecotricity spokesman, said: “Last year was another really successful 12 months of producing clean green renewable energy for the Shooter’s Bottom windmill near Chewton Mendip. The turbine has now been producing green electricity for almost five years and these figures continue to show what a feather in the cap it is for the county’s renewable credentials.”
The NO to Huntspill Windfarm pressure group is shocked that the proposed site for the wind farm places it within 600m of the nearest houses. They say there is the threat that residents will be seriously affected by the noise and even at risk of sleep deprivation.
A number of European countries are insisting that wind farms can only be located at least 2 kilometres from any human habitation because of the problems associated with them. France imposes a no go area of 500 metres around wind farms. There are no such rules in the UK.
The group says that: “These huge machines are little but a large visual political statement of green intentions.” They further argue that wind turbines are only functional for as long as there is wind and if they were going to provide a real alternative to a typical power station, an area of 200 square miles would be required to site 3,000 2MW turbines.
The group also says wind farms at this location will be out of character with the area within which they are proposed. These tall structures in an otherwise flat landscape will be intrusive and detract from the natural beauty of the Somerset Levels, they say. At 394 feet high, they will be far taller than any structures within the area, almost the height of Brent Knoll and 150 feet higher than the Polden Hills.
To coincide with the hearing at the Princess Hall, Burnham-on-Sea, in the early part of this week, the group launched a blimp near the proposed site to illustrate how the four turbines might look as part of the landscape.
The inquiry found that survey results specific to this proposal indicated there would be no significant risks to birds or bats as a result of the proposed plans. However, the RSPB advises in general terms that: “The available evidence suggests that wind farms can harm birds in three possible ways – disturbance, habitat loss or damage (both direct or indirect), and collision. Poorly sited wind farms have caused some major bird casualties.”
It is also argued that this negative impact could especially affect birds of prey. Several species in the area may well be affected including owls and both resident and migratory species of raptor. In addition other large birds such as herons, swans and egrets are prone to collision with turbines. The Huntspill River is used by a variety of species as a flight path and also by bats which hunt there. The land around the river is used as a nesting ground by lapwings and skylarks.