A 50kW turbine at a height of 30m has eased into the landscape in Rattery. Having sighted the structure from afar I decided to investigate via bicycle, which allowed me to fully appreciate the high elevation of the site. Standing underneath the blades spinning at full capacity there was definitely some sound, but the feeling that most gripped me was of wonder.
The rejected Luscombe Cross turbines are three times the size, but provide 46 times the generation capacity. Yet this turbine has caused no controversy. If we are at all concerned about the growing generation gap, then surely the wrong decision was made.
Anyhow, the opportunity renewable energy offers to farmers is discussed in a recent article – “Is 2013 the year of the energy farmer?”. Rising costs, horrific harvests and unsympathetic banks, made 2012 a year of hardship for many farmers. The need to protect against future energy price rises and a new financial income stream, leaves the opportunity too good to refuse for many. Indeed there is a growing number of solar parks going through planning locally of some serious size – 13 hectares (5MW) and 15 hectares (8MW) within a few miles of each other near South Brent. A hectare is the area of Trafalgar Square in London or alternatively an international rugby pitch – in other words, big. Undoubtedly, these renewable energy installations will have an impact on our countryside, but to deny farmers a rare opportunity in gloomy economic times does seem a little unfair. I maintain my reservations that I stated in a previous post: solar is highly variable (2012 was a bad year for solar); provides little or no energy in winter and at night, when we use most; and is still expensive and carbon intensive compared with other forms. However it will surely form part of a diverse set of renewable energy technologies that we need urgently. Furthermore, the two large solar parks in question, offer no opportunity for local ownership, and therefore a much lower proportion of the financial benefits. This is in direct contrast to the model that Totnes Renewable SOCiety (TRESOC) and the Community energy coalition is striving to publicise and celebrate – local people finding resources and sharing the benefits with local investors.
There is space for all scales of renewable energy to play their part in securing a renewable future locally. Farmers can help cultivate a renewable future for all.
Olly Frankland