Tuesday, 14 December 2010

... a different view

On the rocks at Porthleven in Cornwall

I spent a week in Cornwall with my friend who is a bit of an expert in the field of renewable energies. It was an opportunity to find out more about the burgeoning solar, wind and wave energy industries. The south west region is working hard at switching to new ways of doing things. There is money out there from the EU and from our own government and builders, electricians and engineers are getting skilled up. There is a real appetite for solar now that domestic generators can sell their unused energy to the grid. It is not surprising that landowners are offering up their fields.

I went to a public consultation for a project that a local farmer is planning with a solar company from "up London". It was a formality as it seems no one is worried about fields of solar panels. It's the wind turbines that people object to - much to my amusement as I find their presence somehow reassuring and they are a hundred times more attractive than the electricity pylons that romp across the landscape. In fact there was only N and I at the exhibition which was in an off season seaside town community hall. There was an exhibition to study with its spin - lots of photos of happy sheep grazing around the panels. There was a truly pointless questionnaire to complete and there were leaflets to take away. We stayed for over an hour and I enjoyed chatting to the farmer who is evangelical. The field is now used for arable but has a poor yield and it will be interesting to go back in a year's time to see the final product. Will it be a new wildlife haven for birds? A place to stop and reflect?

I like the stillness of solar panels and as a sun worshipping SAD sufferer, I find the concept interesting. Whether the farmer makes the money he is promised remains to be seen. There is a lot of  maths and stats required to forecast the returns and it will be a while before results are known. One thing is for sure, there are going to be a lot of these sites around so look out for them. The solar power race is on. It's good news - low impact, non polluting, minimal visual impact, quiet, employment creating and pretty reliable since it is powered by daylight on both sunny and cloudy days.

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