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"DoES Epic Trip #5 – Do Excellent Stuff in windy places? Another Epic journey"

The fifth Epic Trip was to the Scout Moor wind farm and Paul Marrow kindly wrote up a report:

Image from Paul Anderson via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA licensed

Following in the emerging tradition of epic DoES Liverpool journeys yesterday the journey was indeed epic, from Liverpool via Maghull to Scout Moor, in what remains of Lancashire, 0.5 miles from the edge of Greater Manchester (Rochdale) and only 5 miles from West Yorkshire. Scout Moor is apparently the location of the largest (in terms of energy production) wind farm in the UK and it was indeed an impressive site. The trip from Maghull was supported by the wind turbine development company responsible, in order to assist greater understanding and support for a smaller, pending, project in a lower-lying area north of Liverpool (about which more later.) I met people from FoE Liverpool and FoE Southport but I am not sure whether anybody else who identified this from the DoES mailing list attended.

More about Scout Moor: as its name suggests this is exposed moorland which from its plant biodiversity appears to have been used for sheep grazing for a long period. (The nearest human habitation is a sheep farm.) It is open access land so walkers (and sheep) can walk around the turbines without limit (except attempting to gain access to the interior of the turbine tower where the transformer is located.) In order to be an effective wind farm it needs to be windy, and indeed it was, also rather wet. Is this a surprise in Northern British moorland?

While the weather might be bad for humans, the turbines kept turning. The rotation of the blades is converted into electrical power through the gear mechanism at the hub of each turbine, and then transformed through several different voltages before being fed into the national electrical grid presumably some distance away.

Key disadvantages that people have suggested: the disruption of natural viewpoints, the obstruction of traffic in transporting turbine components to the site, the impact on biodiversity on the site. Well, having lived near a nuclear power station I think Scout Moor looks more aesthetically pleasing, but I understand that must be subjective. There are issues in transporting components to the site when building the wind farm: wind turbine towers and blades are very large and do cause congestion on motorways (I have seen them) and it must be worse for the inhabitants of the nearby towns. It was conceded by representatives of the firm that this is a major hindrance in Wales, where planning applications for a number of onshore wind farms have been accepted, but there is not the road network to bring the components in without paralysing some Welsh towns. Constructing an onshore wind farm does involve some construction activity in a typically remote site, but not on the same scale that would be needed for a conventional or nuclear power station – and there is no primary growth biodiversity on this island in any case. Advantages: the technology is well established at other sites, once constructed it’s easy to start up, and easy to shut down.

But there remains the challenge of what do we want in our back yard, it is a bit crowded on this island. Not everybody will have the same viewpoint. I have on paper information about a proposed site at Lower Alt between Maghull and Formby which I shall leave at DoES Liverpool next time I come in.

From a technology point of view, because onshore wind farms are monitored remotely, I can see some interesting potential for linking monitoring and reports on weather conditions with information about power input and distribution into the electric grid (this comes from my background in telecoms.) I don’t know whether there are any lessons to be learned for smaller-scale technology integration and power generation. Wind farm on the roof of the Gostin’s building. Comments anyone?

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