Category: environment

Looking forward to Fullabrook

I’m looking forward to visiting the Fullabrook Down wind farm. It should be ready by 2010, provided the plans don’t get scrapped.

The site in North Devon received the go ahead from the government last Tuesday – 22 wind turbines generating around a third of North Devon’s electricity.

Local views

I think most of us will agree that wind farms are no magic bullet. I’ve always considered them to be just part of a larger solution. But wind farms have caused quite a stir in North Devon, as can be seen by the last time I wrote about wind energy.

North Devon is such a beautiful area. It’s my homeland and I love it. I’d hate to see anything ruin it. However, I just can’t relate to the more vocal locals who write in to the papers to spout on about the devastating, horrific things that will happen due to wind turbines. It’s as if these wind turbines getting the green light means the world is going to end.

The letters in the local papers often seem hyperbolic, even vitriolic. They instil an inherent cynicism in me, so I have grown tired of the debates. Of course, that’s my problem and I expect people will pick me out on that. Anyway, I don’t necessarily think the people who write in are stupid, ignorant or even wrong. But I see figures buzzing about their comments that are never backed up with solid sources. I see letters of opinion quoted as evidence. I don’t question the legitimacy of the feelings such letters express, but their weight as factual evidence. Just as I don’t expect my opinions in this very entry to change anybody else’s view, none of what I read against wind farms sways my opinion.

Something I find odd (and frustrating) about the whole wind debate is how seemingly outnumbered I am by people who are strongly against wind energy. The local anti-wind groups seem far more impassioned and more vocal than those of us that are pro-wind energy.

Local consequences

One of the main concerns of locals is the impact of the wind farm on our primary industry; tourism. Quoting Nick Harvey, our local MP, via the North Devon Journal:

Mr Harvey added that the tourist industry is worth £500 million to North Devon and Torridge and any decrease in income would create a whole [sic] in the local economy.

I wish I had the power of foresight to be able to support or play down those concerns, but I don’t. I don’t propone to have the answers.

I’ve commented before that I stop and watch wind turbines if I get the chance. I can remember a few specific times I’ve stopped or wanted to stop when passing a wind farm: there was one farm we passed in Cumbria (Lambrigg); the lone turbine just off the M25 near junction 20 (the Renewable Energy Systems office at Kings Langley); the one at Green Park off the M4 near Reading; the three turbines at Forest Moor; the new farm at Avonmouth, Bristol. Am I the only person who finds wind farms calming and beautiful to watch?

In a previous entry about Batsworthy Cross, I wrote:

At the EcoTech Centre in Swaffham, they have a turbine that you can go up in and see the view from their viewing platform. […] I think such a viewing platform would be a fantastic addition to the area, for example, at a good viewpoint such as Batsworthy Cross.

Viewing platforms could be a great feature at Fullabrook too. One or more turbines with viewing platforms. I’m sure that the views across North Devon would be astounding, and even the most ardent NIMBY would begrudgingly have to take a trip up to the top of one.

How about a centre to teach visitors about leading a more sustainable lifestyle? I think an “eco-centre” would fit well into the ethos and essence of the area. (One of the things I love about North Devon is how localised some things are, especially food. You can get fresh produce from local sources daily and many of the restaurants and pubs are locally sourced.)

Perhaps the Fullabrook Community Fund could contribute towards such developments or help boost tourism in the area in other ways?

I can understand that the development period of the turbines will entail problems for the people who live nearby. I can’t understand people getting put off their annual pilgrimages to North Devon because of a wind farm.

Further reading

Your views

Having experienced a barrage of comments about wind energy the last time I blogged about it, I’m tempted to turn comments off for this one – it’s only my opinion after all – but sod it… let the comments flow freely!

Reduce your junk mail

On the Web, we deal with spam every day. Just having an e-mail address, you can hardly miss getting your daily dose of spam! I want to shift focus in this post and look at the junk mail that comes through our front doors.

A helpful postie

Back in August, an enterprising postman made the news when he issued leaflets on his round that advised people on reducing their junk mail. He lost his round for it.

I find it interesting that I’ve never heard of the Royal Mail’s opt-out policy. Now I know what to look for, I’ve found a page on the Royal Mail website about it: Controlling your mail.

Waste

Take a moment to think about how much unwanted post you get through your front door when your postie makes his drop. Think about where that post ends up. Think about the resources, time and money that is wasted in getting that unwanted post to you. Think about the impact that must have on the environment.

The potential waste is not limited to your home either. How much waste is there at work? What about previous addresses you have lived at?

Trail of waste

As a student, I lived in six different houses in six years. Students get quite a bit of junk mail, particularly from credit card companies – I’m looking at you MBNA and Capital One – so I wouldn’t be surprised if those houses still get junk mail addressed to me. We certainly stacked up quite a lot of post for previous tenants at our houses and much of it was junk.

If we couldn’t forward something on, we’d either recycle what we could or return to sender. Recycling things doesn’t solve the problem though, and the public only end up paying for recycling a growing amount of junk, so we’d try to stop the mail at source. Several times we even ended up calling or e-mailing companies as far away as Australia to stop them sending things.

Even more waste?!

Unfortunately, it looks like it’s only going to get worse. A couple of weeks ago, news came that Royal Mail intend to scrap their limit on junk mail of three items of unsolicited mail per household per week. More junk mail through our doors. More junk mail ending up in landfills. More of our planet’s natural resources going into things we don’t even want. And what’s it usually all in aid of? Businesses making money.

The call to action

Save yourself from the junk sent to your home. It only takes a few minutes to start reducing your junk mail and the environmental footprint it leaves behind. It probably takes you just as long to sort through your junk mail!

Write to Royal Mail and tell them you don’t want them to deliver unaddressed mail. This doesn’t include mail addressed to a generic recipient, such as “The Occupier”. If you own a business, you could do this for your business as well.

You can either write to the Royal Mail’s Freepost address for out-outs or e-mail them (see Controlling your mail for all contact details). If you use the e-mail address, Royal Mail will send you a form to sign and return. I wouldn’t bother with calling the phone number: reports are that it is permanently engaged.

If you also want to reduce the addressed mail you get from direct marketing campaigns, you can do so for free by registering with the Mailing Preference Service. Again, this won’t stop mail addressed to a generic recipient, such as “The Occupier” and mail from local business. There’s more infomation on the BBC website: How to junk junk mail.

And if you receive something through the post from a previous owner or tenant, try to stop it at the source. It will save you the headache and is better for the environment and the public wallet.

Energy Saving Week

This post coincides quite nicely with Energy Saving Week, which you might think I did deliberately, but is actually totally unintentional!

Even if you don’t do something to reduce your junk mail, I encourage people to get involved with Energy Saving Week. Each weekday focusses on a different measure you can take to reduce the energy you use. The Energy Saving Trust website also gives a useful top ten tips for saving energy, which could save you some cash. You can even do more and make a commitment to saving 20% of the energy you use everyday.

More information on junk mail

People may find these links helpful:

Alien Invasion

With these guys in charge, we’re all screwed!! Maybe we can do something about it.

Renewable energy: wind farms

I’ve been wanting to post something about this for quite a while. It’s a subject that seems rife with debate right now, and one that I think needs to be taken seriously, but I’m wary of striking up a debate that I just have no time for any more, having spent hours in the past searching Google for information and news.

Jo and I have a keen interest in wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy. While we lived in York, we kept up-to-date with a proposal for a wind farm near Selby in Yorkshire. Having met with complaints, particularly concerned with the welfare of local birdlife (claims downplayed by the RSPB), the wind farm now appears to be going ahead into planning stages.

Having just moved down to Devon, we’ve found that the area has much the same battle going on with wind farms. Jo’s written a bit on her blog on what she thinks about wind power and wind farms.

One proposed wind farm at Hinkley, near Bridgewater in Somerset, recently had planning permission refused. There were two cases against the proposed wind farm. Primarily, a report found that there may be a small risk of a blade breaking and hitting the nuclear power station that currently sits near the proposed site. The risk is tiny and the developer even said that they would agree to not build the three turbines nearest the power station that were considered a risk. Secondly, there was concern for a population of bats living in the area. Claims that the feeding routes of the bats would be disturbed were found to be unsubstantiated. The local council brought forward the date of the public consultation for this wind farm by one day. Permission was refused. Er, why?!

Another wind farm in the area is proposed for Batsworthy Cross, the highest point between Dartmoor and Exmoor. Great! It would be a good point for a farm.

At the EcoTech Centre in Swaffham, they have a turbine that you can go up in and see the view from their viewing platform. I wanted to go during the Wind Weekend over the August Bank Holiday, but we couldn’t make it. I think such a viewing platform would be a fantastic addition to the area, for example, at a good viewpoint such as Batsworthy Cross. Some seem to think wind turbines are ugly and will ruin the countryside and affect local tourism. I actually find wind turbines elegant and have been stunned by wind farms I have seen. One in particular I remember passing on the way back to York from a holiday in the Lake District via the moors. I wish I could remember whereabouts it was. If anything, I think a viewing platform would attract tourists to a wind farm rather than repelling them! We’ve been told there isn’t going to be one of these at Batsworthy though – a shame, but it’s not as if you don’t get good views from there anyway.

Some anti-wind groups seem to think that wind farms are not good enough at producing electricity. Firstly, I’d point out that there are other sources of renewable energy, so it’s not as if there aren’t other sources to help generate the power we need. It may not be as promising as other renewable energy technologies, but wind power is the most mature at the moment. So, what’s wrong with erecting wind farms, supporting them and the research into other forms of renewable energy? And what’s the alternative at the moment? Oh yeah – nuclear power plants. I would much rather see graceful wind turbines than the ugly power plants that scar the landscape. If you are anti-wind, are you saying that you would rather have one of these giant power plants in your back yard?

I resent the comment made by a speaker from the Realistic Energy Forum at a conference at the end of 2004, who said: “The younger people are, the less they know” when asked by a member of the audience whether it was mainly the older generation that opposed wind farms. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the younger generation might be the only ones with their heads screwed on, while all the council officials side with the (mostly minority) complaints of the uninformed. Also, it is the younger generations who will have to deal with the consequences of not doing enough now to lessen or stop global warming.

So, my closing thoughts on this one? Well, anyone who lives near a wind farm and can’t stand them, I’ll buy your house from you and install some solar panels on the roof.