Wednesday, 14 October 2009

New wind turbines approved

Quite unexpectedly (at least from my expectations), the Council's strategic planning committee last night voted to approve applications for new wind turbines at Davidstow and Otterham.

It was a really packed meeting with lots of locals present who objected to the schemes. There were also a few people in favour but the majority of the audience were resolutely opposed.

The Otterham scheme is another relatively small scale project which has a maximum capacity of just 2-3 megawatts of power. The Davidstow proposal, on the other hand, was for 20 turbines generating up to 50 megawatts of power - enough for about 5% of Cornwall's energy needs.

Objections were not just to the siting of the turbines but also based on the possible threat to bird habitats and to air traffic control. In the end the scheme was approved subject to resolution of these two problems. Basically, if a solution cannot be found then planning permission will be withdrawn.

Personally, I am in favour of more wind power. It cannot be the only solution, but must fit with wave and solar power. But there are no proposals for such schemes at the moment and our dependence on coal, gas and nuclear is becoming ever more acute. With the depletion of north sea oil and gas and the end of coal, we are approaching a tipping point in terms of supply and the climate change argument means also that we need to take action to move to more environment friendly means of generating power. And removable wind turbines are a whole lot better than having to have a nuclear power station in Cornwall.

I went into last night's meeting (I was an observer rather than a voting member of the committee) thinking that we need such schemes but that this might not be the best place to locate it. But looking at the detailed site map changed my mind. The site is not unspoilt countryside and it is not an area of outstanding natural beauty (although there are some nearby). In the vicinity you have a reservoir, the massive Davidstow Creamery and the abandoned airfield.

At the end of the day, such a decision will always be a toss up between the benefit of clean, green power and the detrimental effect on the landscape. There is no doubt that some views will be harmed byt these turbines, but, on balance, I think that the right decision was made.

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