Visit To Roskrow Barton Wind Farm

Many thanks to VentnorBlog writer, Wendy Varley, for her report of a visit to see wind turbines in action at Roskrow Barton in Cornwall last week. It’s a long report, but worth the read if this is an area you have an interest in. Ed
My …

Many thanks to VentnorBlog writer, Wendy Varley, for her report of a visit to see wind turbines in action at Roskrow Barton in Cornwall last week. It’s a long report, but worth the read if this is an area you have an interest in. Ed

Visit To Roskrow Barton Wind Farm My visit to Cornwall Light and Power’s wind turbines at Roskrow Barton on a hilltop near Penryn in Cornwall wasn’t just for VentnorBlog’s benefit.

From where I live, wind turbines on Cheverton Down would be highly visible, and I’ve paid careful attention to both sides of the debate about whether three 125m turbines (tip-height) should go there.

There’s already planning consent for three smaller (tip-height 52m) wind turbines at the site dating back to 1995, updated 2003. If the application for larger turbines is turned down, CLP could install old turbines. But they wouldn’t be anything like as efficient as the larger models.

Never having been up close to wind turbines, I was keen to witness for myself how they operate, look, and sound. Are they the humming monstrosities that some opponents suggest they are, or silent and graceful workhorses?

Joining Me On The Visit
Also checking them out were Ray Harrington-Vail from the Isle of Wight’s Footprint Trust, and Hugh Walding (the IW Friends of the Earth co-ordinator.

We met up with representatives from CLP in sight of the turbines at the Cornwall campus of the University of Exeter, which runs a degree course in renewable energy.

Students from the course research the wind turbines, and have access to all the data on their performance.

A local farmer had reported seeing lightning strike one of the turbines during storms the previous day, but Steve Allen from CLP did not seem overly worried on hearing the news. Wind turbines are designed to cope with lightning strikes, and will automatically shut down and run checks before re-starting a few minutes later if everything’s okay, which is what the data showed had happened. There was no damage, and only momentary interruption to supply.

In the Lab
We arrived at the lab to find senior lecturer Dr Dean Millar explaining to a group of visiting sixth-formers from Exeter (all boys I noticed), how wind turbine blades work: the flat of the blades face the wind so that they resist it and flex back towards the tower as they turn.

He mentioned a rare wind turbine collapse in Scotland when a turbine failed to cut out in strong winds and a blade flexed so much that it collided with the tower causing it to crumple.

Neil Harris, Chief Executive of Cornwall Light and Power, quickly chipped in to say that it had happened in hurricane force winds, and that although wind turbines cut out in winds of 25m/s (56mph) they are designed to withstand winds of up to 70m/s (156mph) in the event that they fail to shut down.

Dr Millar went on to talk about the very small risk to birds from modern wind turbines (“half a bird per turbine per year”), and compared it to the far bigger threat from cars, or domestic cats (apparently an estimated 100 million birds a year are killed by cats).

Ray Harrington-Vail interjected that climate change poses a major risk to birds and bats.

Alternative Renewable Energy
Dr Millar touched on other forms of renewable energy, as the college is researching moorings for Cornwall’s £30 million Wave Hub project, which aims to find the best methods to harness wave energy.

“You can appreciate how difficult it is to anchor big wave energy devices in the strongest currents,” said Dr Millar, indicating a gargantuan mooring chain in the middle of the lab.

The SeaGen Ulster tidal project has been looked at with a view to its suitability for off St Catherine’s Point, but as that site is home to a natural reef and a wartime munitions dump, it is less than ideal.

Dr Millar emphasised that research and development into wave and tidal energy is twenty years behind wind turbines, and that wind turbine design has been honed over many years, and is proven and available now.

Neil Harris said that the technical issues that objector groups raise about wind power have been repeatedly dismissed at planning enquiries, but that every time a new planning application goes in “we have to keep on justifying it”.

Roskrow BartonDr Millar recalls how locals opposed the Roskrow Barton development (which went to appeal), “But since the turbines went up they’ve not said anything.”

Steve Allen adds that some opponents of the turbines have now come back to CLP saying they like them.

Neil Harris compared the proposals for Cheverton Down with another of CLP’s developments, Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall: “Those turbines are in an AONB [Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty] and have been adopted by the community.”

Dr Millar has attended wind farm enquiries, and in his opinion objection boils down to two things: people are interested in house values (not a reason for refusal of a planning application); and “local folk sometimes feel it’s someone else coming along and taking our wind”.

“There’s nothing to stop someone forming Isle of Wight Light and Power”¦ if they’re willing to make the investment,” adds Neil Harris.

What Happens When the Wind Stops Blowing?
I ask Neil about the point people make on the Island that during the cold but still weather at New Year wind turbines would not have been much use.

“They’d be right, but overall it’s been a very good wind year,” he says. In their first year of operation the Roskrow Barton turbines have matched their predicted output, and have been producing energy 90% of the time.

“Some energy, but not at full capacity?” I ask.

No, but with an average windspeed of 7.5m/s at the site, the two turbines have produced enough electricity to power more than 1000 homes. (CLP predict that the three larger V90 turbines at Cheverton would power between 4500 and 5000 island homes.)

Dr Millar explained that the overall 30% efficiency of wind farms compares well to other forms of conventional energy such as coal-fired power stations.

Under The Turbines
From the university campus we walked up the track to the wind turbines. It was a bright and blustery March day, and I heard nothing other than the wind and a passing car until I was 70 metres away, where the swoosh of the turbine blades passing the towers was just audible.

Even right at the base of the turbines they are very quiet. Here’s a short recording I made at the base of one of the towers.

The main noise you can hear is the general background noise of the wind. Over that you can hear a rhythmic swish of the turbine as the blades pass the tower.

John Mills, head of construction management at CLP, showed us the nearby control room (in Cheverton’s case it would be down in the farm buildings), which houses a large computer, and a control panel from where the turbines can be adjusted or stopped completely. We were shown how by turning the blade edges to the wind the turbine acts as an air brake and gradually slows to a halt.

Visit To Roskrow Barton Wind Farm Inside the Tower
Donning hard hats, we headed inside the turbine tower itself (picture right by Ray Harrington-Vail).

There’s a ladder up the inside for maintenance work. John explained how the gearbox in the nacelle (behind the blades at the top of the tower) amplifies the power from the slowly rotating blades, before it’s converted by the generator into electricity, which flows through cables down the inside of the tower and underground to the nearest substation.

Monitors at the base of the tower showed the wind speed (which was fluctuating between 7.5 and 10m/s) and power generation.

I felt at ease standing by the turbines, though I had to bear in mind that at 72m to the tip they’re 60% of the size of those proposed for Cheverton.

Dr Millar had compared people’s perceptions of wind turbine size to the scene in Father Ted when Ted explains to Dougal that a miniature cow in the distance isn’t really miniature, it’s just further away.

But for anyone walking the Tennyson Trail there’s no doubt that they would have a fairly close encounter with some pretty large structures.

But a public footpath runs right across the site at Roskrow Barton, within feet of the turbines, and from the hilltop there’s a spectacular view of Cornwall. Maybe the turbines are simply a point of interest on the route.

Other Wind Turbines
On the horizon I could make out other wind farms – Bears Down and Carland Cross – on the north Cornish coast. I can’t claim they’re a blot on the beautiful landscape. They’re barely noticeable. But although Cornwall is more familiar with wind farms, there are objectors there, too.

Later, when I Googled Carland Cross, I noted some opposition to plans to replace the existing 17-year old turbines with ones with a tip-height of more than 100m.

Given that we have no giant turbines at all in this part of the country yet, it’s perhaps no wonder that people are concerned about their potential impact on the landscape.

But there has been a discernible shift of opinion since the plans for wind turbines at Wellow were rejected in 2006. Then, just 18% of the 2312 respondents were in favour. This time it’s a third (612 of 1940).

Ray Harrington-Vail pointed out that a consultation on the Island’s AONB has been taking place, and the responses on that have been in the tens, not the hundreds, suggesting that people are perhaps not quite so fired up about the landscape as the wind turbine debate suggests. He openly supports the wind turbines, and believes that “People might change their priorities once the lights start going off.”

For myself, I am largely reassured about their performance, certainly about their quietness, and in terms of the visuals, while I still can’t entirely picture how they would look in the Island’s landscape, they’re undoubtedly more attractive – and clean – than the coal mines and spoil heaps that used to dot the Yorkshire countryside of my childhood.

Balance
As ever, we try to present a balanced view of subjects. We’ve made considerable effort to get the views of the main opposition to wind farms on the Island, ThWART (The Wight Against Rural Turbines), but to date we haven’t heard from them after they agreed to take part in an interview.

Wednesday, 11th March, 2009 12:05pm

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34 Comments

  1. Superman's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    11.Mar.2009 1:35pm

    excellent report – thank you.

    Reply
  2. Garth's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    11.Mar.2009 1:54pm

    What a great report. Thank you for taking the time producing it.

    Reply
  3. seb's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    11.Mar.2009 6:21pm

    compare and contrast – the situation in portugal :

    …Portugal is set to become the first country to produce energy from floating offshore wind farms following an agreement between the country’s dominant power utility and a US technology company…

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8d602ebe-04b9-11de-8166-000077b07658.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Portugal

    Reply
  4. James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    11.Mar.2009 11:29pm

    Thorough, balanced and interesting, as ever, Wendy. Of course, the ThWARTists will still have you down as a member of the opposition… :-)

    Reply
  5. James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    12.Mar.2009 8:06am

    I know it’s not a planning issue, but did they affect house prices at all? It would be nice to nail that particular myth…

    Reply
  6. Wendy V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    12.Mar.2009 10:33am

    With house prices sliding everywhere lately, it would be hard to know, but the council’s head of planning who spoke at last month’s Brighstone Parish Council meeting said what tends to happen is when the application goes in there is an effect due to uncertainty and that afterwards there’s no or little impact. I haven’t looked at any specific studies myself.

    Reply
  7. James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Mar.2009 11:34am

    There is this:

    http://www.bwea.com/media/news/070328.html

    I realise it’s on the BWEA site, but it is a summary of findings by others, including the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

    Reply
  8. James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Mar.2009 11:43am

    In the interests of balance (and before I get jumped on by the ThWARTists) I should say that the BWEA’s summary is a bit selective. The RICS report does say that: “Insofar as there was any impact on prices, the results seem to show that it is most noticeable for terraced and semi-detached houses” but that it was most significant “within a mile of a wind farm”, which very few houses will be…

    Reply
  9. Wendy V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Mar.2009 12:39pm

    Thanks for the feedback. Will have a look, James.

    Reply
  10. George's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    14.Mar.2009 2:45pm

  11. Vicky Portwain's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    16.Mar.2009 12:27pm

    Hi – I have a factual and balanced summary of several “wind farm impact on house price” studies from UK and US on my website which should help you out. In summary the evidence base (certainly in the UK) is not sufficient to come to definite conclusion – however in both UK and US other factors seem to be much more influential. http://www.windenergyplanning.com/wind-energy-questions-what-is-the-impact-of-wind-turbines-on-house-prices/

    Reply
  12. Wendy V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    16.Mar.2009 3:40pm

    Thanks for the link, Vicky. Interesting article.

    George: is this a second “pro” facebook group? Any connection with ITAG (Island Turbine Action Group)? http://ventnorblog.com/island-turbine-action-group-interview-with-kerri-trickey-podcast/

    Reply
  13. Nancy's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    23.Mar.2009 12:47pm

    I’ve seen wind turbines in Hawarth the town the Bronte sisters came from, it’s a beautifully preserved town which has many more Victorian features than the Island still has. They had been strategically placed so they couldn’t be seen from main tourist attractions like the Bronte’s house and church and the Victorian High Street I admit. When I saw them though in the distance against the back drop of ancient drystone walls stone built houses and the Yorkshire dales I thought they looked quite magical rather than a blot on the landscape and there were many more of them than are proposed for the Island.
    The people who protest against them are probably the same sort of people who wanted the statue of Jimi Hendrix taken down from the garden of Dimbola Lodge, and they need to consider the fact that if we do not do all we can to combat climate change there may not be an Isle Of Wight in a couple of hundred years as it will be completely submerged. A few alien looking structures that make a mild swishing noise if you are close enough to hear it on our downs are a small price to pay for helping to ensure the Islands existence for future generations in my opinion.

    Reply
  14. john Harrison's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    27.Mar.2009 3:46pm

    The issue is about location, location, location.
    The V52 at Barton has a swept area of 2124 m2 compared with the v90 for Cheverton which is
    6362m2. Thus the impact of a 44m diameter blade compared with a 90m blade is therefore 3X.
    Natural England, the IW AONB, English Heritage, the National Trust , Hampshire and Wight Trust for Natural History amongst many others have objected to three wind turbines of this scale in this location.- all of these organisations are supportive of wind turbines in appropriate locations,and most concerned about the impact of climate change.
    The Cheverton application is likely to fail because of the objections regarding its inapppropriate site selection, irrespective of its merits, and the failure by its supporters to justify why Cheverton is the right location for turbines of this scale.

    I note that ThWART have been criticised on the blog for not being prepared for a public debate.
    I understand ThWART has not wished to engage on a debate on either climate change or whether wind turbines are good or bad
    but wished to focus on whether this is the right
    location for wind turbines of this scale.

    The RSPB report commissioned by them and published this week is supportive in principle of expanding the onshore wind turbine industry, and the say that if well sited the impact on wildlife would be negligible.
    They recommend a proper process of site selection and fuller consultation to avoid conflict.
    To that extent their report should be welcomed by all, and should be a much better way forward to meeting our renewables obligations.

    Reply
    • simon's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

      28.Mar.2009 5:51pm

      Re Thwart interview. Thwart were keen to be interview, picking a weekend that suited them. Over that weekend, they didn’t return the calls of the person who was going to interview them for VB.

      As we’ve said before, we were and still are happy to speak to them.

      We haven’t given up on Thwart … we’ve called them subsequently – most recently to get their views on the interviews we did with Steve Allen from Cornwall Light and Power – but sadly still haven’t heard back from them.

      From the reactions we’ve heard from readers, Thwart have seriously weakened their case in choosing not presenting their views on VB.

      Reply
      • James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

        29.Mar.2009 3:36pm

        “they didn’t return the calls of the person who was going to interview them”

        So ‘unavailable for comment’ then? I expect they’re still getting over the RSPB report!

        Reply
    • simon's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

      28.Mar.2009 5:57pm

      I had a long chat to the RSPB last week. If I get time, I will write it up into a story.

      Here’s one of the things that was really surprising – they have only maintained objections to 7% of wind farm planning applications.

      Clearly that’s 93% of them that they have no objection to.

      Reply
  15. james dawes's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    27.Mar.2009 4:03pm

    I agree with John – without a body like Thwart and of course the planning department, a company like Vestas would cover the Island in turbines because they are great CASH genarators not electricity generators. They couldn’t care where they shove them up.

    Let’s balance renewables with the need to preserve our landscape as well as the planet.

    What about some investment from Gordon and his cronies in alternatives that might actually deliver like tidal and nuclear.

    We don’t want to be bounced into a scheme where the main beneficiaries are Big Business and not the Island or the planet

    Reply
    • James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

      28.Mar.2009 10:47am

      “What about some investment from Gordon and his cronies in alternatives that might actually deliver like tidal and nuclear”

      So it’s OK for them to be subsidised, but not wind power? As I understand it, there is no direct subsidy of the CL&P scheme anyway, just a premium on the electricity sold. As I’ve said before on here, I’m all in favour of any renewable resources (and that doesn’t include nuclear until fusion reactors are available) but wind is part of the mix, and the most readily available.

      Vestas would not “cover the Island in turbines” because they are the manufacturer, not the power company, and I imagine that even Thwartists are in favour of normal planning procedure!

      Reply
  16. V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    27.Mar.2009 6:12pm

    has the feasibility study for a nucleur generator on Cheverton Down been instigated yet?

    Reply
  17. V Bird's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    27.Mar.2009 8:05pm

    I strongly believe the Cheverton Down wind farm should go ahead, and that we on the Isle of Wight should be very proud of it, for several important reasons:

    1. If we are all to use electricity we should be prepared to be responsible for the impact of generating it. Dumping pollution in someone else’s back yard when we could generate cleanly ourselves is not morally tenable.

    2. We are badging ourselves as an ‘eco-island’ – truly wonderful, but we need to put our money where out mouths are!

    3.

    Reply
    • V Bird's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

      27.Mar.2009 8:10pm

      Not sure what happened there, but:

      3. The first time I cycled past the blade works at the back of the Medina Estate I was struck by how beautiful the blades are; I believe the wind farm would be amazing, not an eyesore, and am a regular walker on the Tennyson Trail at Cheverton.

      4. Vestas are one of the largest and most prestigeous private sector employers on the island; as Islanders we should give them all the support we can.

      I personally would be proud to live on an island where we generate so much electricity cleanly and locally.

      Reply
  18. V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    27.Mar.2009 11:52pm

    ditto fellow V person

    Reply
  19. Wendy V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    31.Mar.2009 11:16am

    There’s coverage in this week’s County Press (27 March, p26) of Ray Harrington-Vail’s (Footprint Trust) impressions of the visit to Roskrow Barton.

    Reply
  20. James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    31.Mar.2009 12:20pm

    I saw that, Wendy. They might have given you a name-check!

    Reply
  21. Wendy V's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    31.Mar.2009 12:55pm

    It’s fair enough, James – theirs is the Footprint Trust and FoE viewpoint. Mine is my own… which I chose to write up for VentnorBlog!

    Reply
  22. Chris Welsford's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    4.Apr.2009 8:17pm

    Well done Wendy Varley! That is a brilliant account. I am sorry I missed it before.

    I am pro-renewables and pro-wind power but like most people I am worried about visual impact and cost efficiency. Your report makes me feel very much more reassured that we should embrace the proposal to site the new turbines at Cheverton and elsewhere too. No one can accuse you of being a NIMBY, given where you live. I think that ThWART supporters try to put on the air of reasoned balanced objection, but in the end they just don’t want it to impact on their lives at all regardless of the good it will do generally. It’s like ignoring Fairtrade and not caring about child labour in producing our cheap consumer goods. Using electricy generated in filthy DRAX or Kingsnorth (well away from here) and not caring about the damage that causes, is what this is all about. I doubt (m)any ThWART members are also members of Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace? I don’t recall seeing a ThWART banner on the “I Count” demo I went on with my kids and their friends.

    I discussed the prospect of siting wind turbines on Boniface Down with a lady during the last election here and she was very anti, and you can understand that. But when I pointed out that Boniface had until quite recently been home to Ventnor Radar (www.ventnorradar.co.uk) and the turbines are not likely to be any more noisy than the old radar booms (and certainly less ugly IMO) and they probably would not be that visible from the town and nothing like as polluting, she was less anti and more open to the idea.

    I’m not saying this is the only answer but I echo the words of Verity Bird. If we want the power then we have to accept the siting of the generators in our back yard. Otherwise it’s back to doing the washing-up by hand and candles!

    My childhood memories are of Didcot and similar power stations in Northern France that I recall seeing on holidays, belching out sulphurous fumes; massive cooling towers and awful smells. How would we feel if we were the good folk of Dungeness when the Government agreed to place a Nuclear Power Station on their beach?

    I think we should count ourselves as being very lucky indeed and welcome wind power with more grace.

    Reply
    • T@4's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

      15.Apr.2009 10:37am

      “I think we should count ourselves as being very lucky indeed and welcome wind power with more grace.”
      From this Islanders should accept turbines because they are not as bad as a coal/gas/nuclear power plant sited here??!? So it’s an either or between turbines or a power station? Glad that’s been qualified!!!
      “(www.ventnorradar.co.uk) and the turbines are not likely to be any more noisy than the old radar booms.” SO, you think a 50m blade travelling at over 150mph at the tip in a vertical plane which produces a boom every time it passes the tower will give similar noise to a radar of few meters in radius with tip speeds below 50mph travelling in an horizontal plane and passing in free air(no tower to pass)?!?? ARE you a sound engineer?
      “Otherwise it’s back to doing the washing-up by hand and candles!” Wouldn’t this be the case when the wind is not blowing? Or, would these massive turbines be as an auxiliary, purely additional power source to deliver power as predictably and reliably as the wind??? Sounds like a bit of a “white elephant” luxury!
      Now there’s the best marketing scoop. Massive WHITE wind turbines on the Isle of WIGHT set it to become the Island of WHITE elephants.

      Reply
      • James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

        15.Apr.2009 12:11pm

        “the old radar booms”

        I think you’re mixing up your booms! Chris was talking about masts and gantries, I believe…

        FWIW, I’m in favour of combined heat and power, too. There was a gas-powered CHP station on one of the nursery (greenhouse, not pre-school!) sites near Arreton that was intended to provide heat for the crops and electricity for the grid. This was installed and ready to go, but ran into financial difficulties and the equipment ended up being exported. Sad.

        Reply
        • T@4's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

          15.Apr.2009 7:33pm

          Thank you James. So Chris was saying that these huge blades travelling at such a rapid velocity would produce no more noise than STATIONARY gantries and masts. So he suggests there would be ZERO noise. Right, and pigs will fly and swoop with glee between each blade as they zoom past the support tower.
          I think the only thing these turbines will produce at near negligible levels will be electricity.

          Reply
          • James P's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

            15.Apr.2009 11:38pm

            No need to shout, T@4 – I was simply suggesting that you might have misinterpreted ‘boom’. Open framed masts can be quite noisy in wind, probably more so than streamlined wind turbines, in fact. I really don’t think noise is an issue here, and if turbines produce as little power as you suggest (hope?) then no-one will put them up and you won’t have much to worry about…

  23. Chris Welsford's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

    15.Apr.2009 10:45am

    T@4. Wendy’s article does not seem to support your scary view of wind power. For the record, I would be far keener to see CHP (Combined Heat & Power) units built for towns like Ventnor.

    Reply
    • v's comment is rated +2 Vote +1 Vote -1

      15.Apr.2009 9:11pm

      I was in Cambidgeshire recently on the road by the side of a wind farm with 8 turbines (maybe more)…the noise (if one could call it such) was minimal and didn’t stand out against traffic noise on a very quite country road..we could certainly still hear the sheep in the adjacent field

      Reply

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