Offshore wind farm ‘will look taller than Isle of Wight’

26 July 2012

Smuggler’s Cove BU’s Dr Nigel Garland appears on BBC South Today and Radio Solent to discuss arguments for and against wind farm plans in the South.

By Maisie Gibson.

The South of England is home to vast rolling hills and beautiful coastlines, with near unspoilt views stretching for miles and miles - perfect locations for wind farms. Whether you’re a valiant supporter of the graceful turbines or a disgruntled Nimbyist, wind farm plans are set to roll out across England’s country sides and seas in the next few years.

One such plan is the major Navitus Bay project, run by energy firm Eneco. The proposed farm will stretch between Peveril Point at Swanage, Dorset and the Needles in the Isle of Wight, a mere eight miles or so from the shore.

The scheme has caused controversy since it was first proposed in January 2010, gathering opposition from the aptly named ‘Challenge Navitus’ society.

Fears are that, despite the promise of power for 820,000 homes, 3,000 jobs during construction and 100 permanent jobs thereafter, the turbines will look horrendous, spoiling the classic Jurassic coast views due to their massive stature. Eneco released pictures showing the turbines as mere dots on the horizon, to which Challenge Navitus reacted by releasing ‘more realistic’ pictures, with turbines lining the coast in menacing droves.

To try and abate the conflict, BBC Radio Solent launched an independent study to find out the true visual impact of the turbines. To do so, they enlisted the help of Bournemouth University’s senior lecturer in Sustainable Technologies - Dr Nigel Garland. After many calculations, Garland did reveal to BBC South Today that “the Challenge Navitus images are much more realistic.”

However, he did stress that all research had been done on “the worst case scenario” where the turbines were the “biggest Eneco could possibly use” at 210m high.

His findings were somewhat alarming to local people, placing the appeared height of the turbines from shore at Swanage as three times the height of Tennyson Down. The Down is the highest point on the Isle of Wight, and with as many as 240 turbines, they would look very imposing if you found their design disagreeable.

“But,” says Garland, “We have to ask, what exactly do we want? You’ve seen the news - 7 billion people want a Western lifestyle, that’s a lot of electricity.”

Wind turbines look set to help us reach our energy demand while reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, “there are trade offs in all these situations.”

Following Nigel Garland’s investigation, Eneco have said that “plans are now being re-visited” and “remain committed to the ongoing problem of consultation going on all round the local area.”

Gone for now then, but not forgotten. As North Sea oil supplies run low, this country desperately needs a new, renewable energy supply, and it looks like the Dorset countryside could be a place to get it.

Maisie Gibson, 17, is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. She joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from her college with essential work experience for four weeks over the summer. For further details about the scholarship can be seen online.

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