I think I’ll Build a Wind Farm…

Phil Wilcock
Mar 14, 2011

Sometimes, the saying goes, you have to put your money where your mouth is.

I’ve been talking about clean energy, energy conservation, Green IT and IT efficiency for some years now, so when the opportunity came along to do something a bit more practical about climate change I didn’t have to think for too long.

Hillside Farm is a windy old spot. It sits on the North-West coast of the UK, and is only a mile or so from the Irish Sea so I’d been thinking about installing a wind turbine on the farm to cover our power usage and maybe generate a little extra. Things have moved on a little in the last couple of years however, and my initial idea has now turned into something bigger altogether..

With initial wind speed surveys looking really promising (about 7m/s at 25m altitude), it occurred to me that it would be better to put up the biggest turbine possible, or maybe more than one. So by combining the land from our farm with that of our neighbor we are now looking at a proper three turbine wind farm.

Wind energy comes in for a lot of criticism here in the UK, and in general worldwide. Seen as huge eyesores, inefficient tax-break machines or worse, so I felt obliged to find out as much as possible about wind energy before I took the plunge. I visited existing installations, researched the technical ins and outs, looked at recent advances in the technology and listened hard to both pro and anti wind groups at many presentations and meetings.

The conclusion was that there is a lot of myth making around what is a long established and productive way of generating renewable energy. Sure the old two blade turbines from 20 to 30 years ago are not the most efficient energy generators, but things have moved on a whole lot since then. Modern turbines can generate significant amounts of energy, with the larger models producing enough for around 1,000 homes. I also feel that most people tend to overlook the fact that wind energy is a relatively short term solution. There are some amazing technologies coming down the line which will be hopefully generating clean energy for us in the future, but until they are ready we need to both reduce our current energy consumption and generate as much electricity as we can from the technologies that we have available right now. In 50 years time we may look back and laugh at our efforts to generate power with these spindly looking giants, but if they allow us the breathing space to transition away from fossil fuel generation methods then who cares!

Eye of the Beholder

Personally I find wind turbines quite beautiful. Having stood right under the rotating blades of a 300ft turbine recently, I can tell you that it’s an amazing sight, and not at all noisy! All you can hear is the swoosh of the blade as it passes overhead at 300mph and you can quite easily hold a normal conversation there.

The Plan

I’m pleased to say that we are now well under way with preparations and planning for our own wind farm. If built, it should generate enough power for 3-4,000 homes using turbines like these from REPower. We have undertaken 12 months of environmental impact surveys on the farm too, in order to ascertain the species present, and to make sure that there is minimal environmental impact by monitoring things like bird flight paths and feeding grounds. Construction will be a big undertaking, with roads to be built, and grid connections required, but I’m hoping that within a couple of years we will be up and generating. Watch this space for updates and photos!