11 June 2009

Little Cheyne Wind Farm

I went to an event organised by the British Wind Energy Association at new wind farm, Little Cheyne,
close to Rye in East Sussex.

The event was an opportunity to hear about planning rules, technical issues and other matters
relevant to the installation of wind energy schemes in the UK.

Of particular interest is the role played by local authorities in this process. Schemes over 50MW come within the realms of the 'Electricity Act' and are determined by the Secretary of State for Industry rather than the local planning authority.
For this relatively modest scheme of 59MW installed capacity the process was drawn out over many years - the installation was opposed by Shepway DC and Kent County Council against the technical advice of their officers - 'Councillors speaking up for local people'. However, given the siting of these turbines, right adjacent to Dungeness Power Station I find it difficult to understand how these machines can be in any way more offensive than an old-fashioned nuclear power station.

Here's Dungeness:

Here's the wind farm:

In addition we had an interesting presentation from a member of Swale Borough Council. Swale BC blocked the planning permission for a vital piece of the on-shore equipment for the London Array - adding years to its development and threatening its viability. Although I'm not clear whether this councillor opposed the London Array at that time, it seemed an unusual choice for the BWEA to make on this day. There was clearly a degree of sceptism from some of the other Councillors there today - but the staff from the BWEA and others there reassured me that this was falling.

One of the new things that I learnt today is that planning permission for these farms is for 25 years only - and that proper provision for the decommisioning of the farm is included in the plans - if only the same were true of our nuclear power stations!

Much of the land around the farm and possibly across is open - there are many paths - take the kids and have a picnic - the Marsh Line running from Ashford to Hastings is a lovely ride; Rye is delightful too.

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