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Community-led medium turbines are way forward

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: April 21, 2014

Farmer Craig Barks

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Craig Barks, of Kniveton, is a farmer and a chartered surveyor. He has been trying to seek approval for a wind turbine for nearly four years. Here, he gives his thoughts on wind energy.

A FRIEND of mine often describes wind turbines as being like Marmite – you love them or hate them.

The issue of climate change is clearly documented and although there are a few sceptics, the majority of UK society are aware, adapting and taking action on climate change, but is it enough?

I would not like to see every hilltop, ridge and skyline covered in 100-metre turbines, but there is potential to embrace this technology at the appropriate size, scale and purpose for the landscape.

I was comforted by a recent visit to the Lake District National Park, where the pub at the top of the Kirkstone Pass has installed three 5kW wind turbines. This picturesque landscape is of the highest sensitivity with an excellent wind resource and the National Park have incorporated wind power.

While I am a Carsington Wind Farm supporter, my interest in wind power lies in the small to medium-scale range.

I think there is so much opportunity to use this technology without having the scale of impacts associated with large wind farm development.

The majority of these projects are financed by the farmer or the landowner and, while they have the benefit of reducing their increasing energy costs and having the benefit on income from the electricity produced, they also bear the risk.

These proposals benefit people who live and spend in the community, possibly employing staff while also producing green electricity.

My enthusiasm for wind power has been put into action as I have been attempting to erect a wind turbine on my farm at Kniveton.

It was always my intention to integrate wind power and other renewable technology into developing the farm, not because I had too, or because planning policy stipulated I must, but because it seemed a common sense approach. So, having a very exposed farm, wind is the way I firmly believe I should go. The difficulty I have had to date is at what scale?

Landscape impact of turbines is always a difficult subject. People tend to overlook the bigger picture and we are looking at the landscape at a snapshot in time.

We cannot frame it and put it safely in a box. It is continually changing, evolving, being influenced by man, the climate etc. The landscape impact is always a subjective view and there is certainly not a policy of one rule fits all.

The economic benefits of small and medium-scale wind are often raised and this is where I think community-led medium wind turbines are the way forward.

If communities were able to invest, have knowledge of the risks, be involved in sources funding, working out returns and payback, I think the whole community would benefit.

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