Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cultivating energy farmers

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 me most gripped 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.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Legacy or an historic view?

What will be the legacy we leave for our children, and our children's children?
We normally consider our legacy towards the end of our lives, but why not reflect continually throughout our existence? 
When we look down the trail of lives, will we be proud?

The Children's fire is an idea that I came across recently thanks to those at Embercombe. It states that no law or action can be taken that may harm the children (now and in the future). How would this impact the way you live your life and the decisions you make? What kind of society would not have this idea embedded at the heart of decision-making? 

When we evaluate the Landscapes officer report for Totnes community wind farm, particularly the huge value given to maintaining the view from sites of history and heritage, confusion sets in. We assume that conserving these views is a duty that must be upheld for future generations at all cost. Would your children prefer an historic view over a secure source of renewable energy? Will these views help keep their lights on for many years to come?  

I don't have the answers, but what I do believe is that we should make decisions with our children's rights in much higher regard. There is no doubt that the conservation of local history is an important task, but it must be set within the current context and with future needs in mind.

Totnes community wind farm offers us the opportunity to create a legacy to be proud of - that invests in our future and is part of the remedy for one of the most sinister diseases in modern life - myopia - also known as short-sightedness. 
"Children are one third of the population and all of our future", Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981.