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Wind farm in my backyard? Yes please

Posted by Gilly Jones on 31 March 2010 at 9:47 am

Two wind turbines constitute a wind farm. That's just one of the many facts I learned last week on a tour of the Roskrow Barton Wind Farm near Penryn in Cornwall, courtesy of the The Cornwall Light and Power Company (CLP).
Members of Sid Valley Energy Action Group (SVEAG) invited me to join them on a fact finding mission into wind energy. Our host for the morning was Jack Chambers, who works for Pure Energy Professionals, a subsidiary that manages the wind farm.
From the ground the two graceful Vesta V52-850kW turbines seem huge, but they are considered babies in the wind turbine world at just 44 metres high. Each blade is 25.3 metres and a turbine weighs around 77 tonnes. There are 2,100 of this type of wind turbine installed worldwide.
What surprised me most was the sound. I expected them to be noisier in the brisk morning breeze. I was assured that this was as noisy as they get. The swoosh of the blades was rather relaxing, and no more disturbing than the background noise of the traffic from the road alongside the site. In fact, the noise reduced considerable once we moved to the entrance of the farm, and was barely audible over the hum of the car engine.
CLP has invested £2 million in the site and the turbines are estimated to produce 5,500 Megawatts hours of clean, emission-free electricity a year.  To put that into perspective, that’s equivalent to the electricity used by 1,100 Cornish households each year (based on the DTI energy statistics for homes in the South West). Assuming six months to repay the carbon debt, Roskrow Barton started generating truly carbon free electricity from the summer of 2008 and will continue to do so for the rest of its working life, which is expected to be at least 20 years.

If, in 2028 they decide to retire these turbines and not replace them, they can be taken away, leaving no damaging legacy to the land or the environment. The same can’t be said for say the decommissioning of a nuclear energy plant, a lengthy process, costing millions, in some cases billions, and leaving a legacy of nuclear waste for many years to come.

Wind farm in my back yard? Definitely a yes for me. They are aesthetically more pleasing on the eye than a fossil fuel or nuclear energy plant, and any niggling concerns I had have been laid to rest. One issue that we didn’t get to the bottom of was the impact on TV reception. But as we drove away, I did think wouldn’t our lives all be richer for watching less TV?

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