River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2002

Not in my backyard

As we all know, Norfolk has many attractions. Perhaps it cannot compete for scenery with the beauty of the Lake District, the rolling hills of Devon or the mountains of Scotland and Wales but it does have its own unique landscapes and other assets that those areas have not. One thing that we can claim is that we have a lot of sky and along with that we get what are probably the best sunsets of anywhere in the UK, unfortunately we also get some strong and uninterrupted winds. In days gone by the area was dotted with windmills that were used to power drainage pumps and corn grinding machines. I am very disappointed to learn that there are now proposals to site new wind mills at Choseley, Sedgeford and Burnham Deepdale. These are not the picturesque windmills of former times, however, but modern wind turbines for electricity generation. Presumably, if they are to make any useful contribution to the electricity supply they will be like the monster at Swaffham, visible for miles and spoiling our unspoilt view of the sky.

The Government is keen to see a greater proportion of our electricity generated by renewable sources, a laudable aim, currently the proportion is only a few percent, but they are prepared to offer subsidies to help achieve that aim. Are windmills the way forward? The turbine at Swaffham is 100m (328ft) high to the tip of its rotor, when the wind is sufficiently strong, it can generate 1.5MW. A decent size coal fired or gas fired station can generate over 400MW, and it follows that we would need 300 of the Swaffham monsters to replace just one power station. Are these latest proposals for another three the thin end of the wedge? If we are to have more wind turbines it would seem that Norfolk, with its uninterrupted landscape is a prime candidate. In truth, of course, 300 turbines could not really replace one power station, we would need more than that to cover the times when the wind was not strong enough to obtain the maximum power output and even then we would still need the power station to cover the time when there was little or no wind at all. All this leads me to query the economics of wind turbines

Another attractive feature of Norfolk that we can claim is the variety and numbers of wild birds, unfortunately a wind turbine has a nasty tendency to kill any bird that flies through its functioning area.

The unspoilt nature of North Norfolk, the sky and the birds are all factors that contribute to the attraction of the area and bring the tourists, who are major contributors to the local economy. A proliferation of these machines will drive the tourists away. In my opinion the disadvantages of these large wind turbines outweigh their advantages, I don't want them.

The Government is facing a problem of what to do about future power generation as older power stations are taken out of service, but renewable sources are unlikely to solve the problem in the short term and the size of their contribution in the long term is questionable. The choice for the Government is between more gas, oil or coal fired stations with their associated carbon dioxide exhaust or some new nuclear stations and the politicians have to make their mind up or we may find ourselves back in the days of power cuts at peak times. In my view the advantage of some renewable sources is that the distribution is free, we should be endeavouring to utilise solar energy more, it can be utilised where it is required and it has little or no environmental impact. Solar powered water heating could be a requirement for all new buildings. Wind power might be utilised more with small scale turbines, a turbine with 6ft blades could generate 1kW with reasonable wind conditions. If we must have large wind turbines then I believe that they should be located out at sea.

Ron Watts

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