Saturday 14 July 2007

Glyndebourne Turbine

The planning applications committee passed the Glyndebourne Wind Turbine application on Wednesday by 6 votes to 4. Despite some press reports, the vote wasn't quite split down party lines. 

The lib-dem chair didn't vote, but the rest of the lib-dems (including me) voted in favour, one tory voted in favour of the application, citing energy security concerns, but the rest of them voted against. If they'd all voted against, it would have been a 5-5 tie. The casting vote of the chair might have gone with us, but equally it might have gone with the officers' recommendation.

A couple of alternative suggestions were put by councillors who voted against: to build an offshore turbine, or to build a vertical axis turbine. Neither would be good technical solutions.

Vertical axis turbines are have no great noise or efficiency advantage over horizontal axis turbines. They've not been widely deployed because they're techically difficult to build, and they're limited in size by engineering constraints. Nobody builds them. If, as suggested, a horizontal axis turbine were 23m, one third the height of the proposed turbine, then it would need to be at least 90m wide to produce the same energy!

An offshore turbine is expensive to build and to maintain though they do have a longer life and be produce better economic or energy returns in the long run. In this case, the developer is paying nothing for the land, and is in a better position to maintain a local facilty than an offshore facility. No doubt they also value the prestige that will attach to this very visible statment of commitment to the environment.

Whatever the merits of these alternative solutions, the planning application committee is not permitted to consider them. It has to consider the proposal in front of it. In this case, it was necessary to consider whether the turbine would be effective, so we've asked for a wind survey to be performed. If the proposal was not sound in energy terms, then we'd have to consider the turbine as we might a piece of sculpture - and would almost certainly have turned it down for lack of artistic originality!

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