Wind Turbines on University Campus?
CRed and officers from South Norfolk District Council, and the City, together with a major company, have established the business and technical sense of two wind turbines on the UEA campus (and one on the old abattoir site near Harford Bridge). Each would produce enough electricity for 1000 homes, and each would "save" around 2000 hot air balloons of CO2 every year. Consultations - at the earliest possible opportunity - have now started with the local community.
The two candidate sites for the UEA turbines are in the area of the playing fields (Figure 1). They would be 78m to the "hub" and with 32m blades - roughly the size of Swaffham's, but "cleaner" in appearance, since there would be no observation deck, and no buildings associated with them. Visualisations of what they would look like are shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3 (from the viewpoints indicated in Figure 1). Access would be right up to the base of the masts, and the electricity would be fed directly into the 11kV transmission lines which already run across that area of the campus.
The reason for the choice of sites is the "smoothness" of the wind - there are no nearby buildings to disturb the airflow -, and the company's priority of ensuring that there is no disturbance whatsoever to people in residential properties. No other location on the campus meets the strict criteria adopted.
Given the current level of noise in the vicinity, it is most unlikely that the turbines will be heard at all more than 150-200m away. All houses and buildings are currently much further away than that. At a distance of 50m, the level of noise will probably be less than a person talking. Figure 4 shows distances from the turbines.
The RSPB has no concerns about the locations.
CRed has not considered any other turbines beyond the three (2 on the campus, one at the abattoir site) mentioned here.
CRed is very aware of the value the local community places on the Yare Valley and its environs. UEA shares that value, and does its bit to provide access and maintain the walking trails. CRed hopes, however, that we are all able to consider the bigger picture - the serious environmental threat which faces the whole Planet, as well as the local effects of that global threat. Climate change will produce further landscape changes in this country. Reedbed systems will be under threat and summer river-flow is likely to be lower, with East Anglia being part of the area most affected.
Besides identifying and implementing more efficient use of energy, an important part of the CRed approach is to encourage the use of renewable energy sources (which emit no, or little, CO2 into the atmosphere). One of the most effective, and cheapest sources of renewable energy, is land-based wind turbines.
If CRed is going to work, and if we are going to persuade other to follow suit, it is important that we can demonstrate that local communities can accept and take ownership of low-carbon energy sources. CRed and the major commercial company which would build and operate the turbines are pioneering a new way of going about this. This consultation is part of this.
Other innovations are considering how financial benefits might be used within the community. The way this is likely to work is that - as landowner - UEA would receive an annual rent from the company, which could generate a surplus. In those circumstances, the UEA administration has agreed to create a fund which could be used for local initiatives consistent with the aims of CRed. Discussions have also been had about making real-time data from the turbines available to schools - weather information, electricity produced, CO2 "saved", etc. - the learning opportunities are immense.
If we can learn to work with the major company, and it with our community, it could provide a model for other initiatives which could be of major benefit to Norfolk; for example, producing energy from crops grown by Norfolk farmers.
Comments from the CRed Community
Susan Falch-Lovesy, Norfolk Environmental Education Service (Norfolk County Council)
"Our pupils' futures and quality of life that they can expect will depend very much on the choices that we make today with regards to energy production and consumption. Pupils will need to become much more familiar with technologies that help us meet our needs, yet do not irreversibly damage our environment. The thought of schools and their communities being able to play their part in this challenge is a very exciting one, and to have first hand experience of this technology is most relevant to their education. Schools having access to data from a turbine in the way CRed proposes, wherever they might be, would be a wonderful learning opportunity and I believe pupils in Norfolk will have a strong view which will need to be considered very carefully".
Richard Powell, Regional Director of the RSPB and a Board Member of EEDA
"Renewable energy is the only answer to climate change and the protection of our existing environment. I am a great supporter of wind energy. Obviously there are some sites which would be unsuitable for wind turbines because of their special environmental sensitivity such as bird breeding, feeding and roosting areas and those on bird flight paths and migration routes, and the RSPB ensures that such sites are adequately protected. However, I have no such concern about the sites proposed by CRed - I would love it to go ahead".
Professor Keith Clayton, founding Dean of the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA, now retired, and who is working to give many old windpumps on Halvergate Marshes a new leash of life and use them to generate electricity
"The past prosperity of Norfolk depended in large part on its windmills. In their time, they were amongst the largest structures in the Norfolk landscape. Now they are regarded as important landscape features in our county. It would be wonderful if we can show the rest of the country how we can encourage the best of the modern technology for our future prosperity at the same time as protecting and cherishing the best of the past".