Monthly Archives: October 2013

//October

Energy Self-Sufficiency

In a world of rapidly increasing energy prices, one farming family are well on the way to completing their ambition of becoming completely energy self sufficient.

Lower House Farm near Cardeston in Shrewsbury is home to the Gethin family, whose farm business comprises arable crops, a green waste composting facility and a poultry rearing unit and requiring large amounts of energy each year.

With 200kW of roof mounted solar panels already in place, alongside a 750kW biomass boiler, the family have now gone one step further to becoming a zero-carbon farm. In April this year, they installed a 50kW wind turbine to complement their existing renewable technologies. The power demand of the poultry unit alone is well over 300,000kW a year and the solar panels currently produce just under half of this. The addition of the turbine is due to help the demand, especially during the cloudier winter months and during the night when the solar panels cannot generate energy.

Initially, the Gethin’s found issues with gaining planning permission, particularly after meeting local opposition.  Nevertheless, having been turned down by Shropshire Council, they didn’t give up and their second attempt was granted and the turbine was erected shortly after. They recommend that farmers intending to install similar projects engage with the local community from the outset in order to resolve any confusion or disputes which may come up later down the line. One issue the family found was concerning the distance to the turbine; this should always be at least 300m from the nearest property which makes it quiet and less visible to neighbours.

Although all projects differ depending on the local council and nearby neighbours, with renewable energy becoming more prominent in planning departments across the UK, more and more projects are being granted planning permission and wind energy is becoming an increasingly popular method of farm diversification.

Helping to save money and doing their bit for global energy security, the family say they couldn’t be happier with their decision.

Windy weather: what will happen to our turbines?

With the recent storms whipping across the south of the UK, many people have started worrying about what will happen to our turbines. The main message is don’t panic – wind turbines are programmed to shut off in very high winds, although usually much higher than those we’ve seen recently in the UK, so there really is no reason to be concerned.

When strong winds blow, most turbines have a variety of automatic shutdown speeds. When wind is measured over a certain speed for longer than 10 minutes, or there are large gusts over 100mph, a shutdown trigger is activated and the turbine stops turning. In fact, the blades of a turbine are ‘feathered’, meaning they are twisted so they no longer catch the wind and stop rotating, reducing the risk of damage to the turbine.

Two years ago, footage was released showing a wind turbine breaking up and catching fire in Ardrossan, Ayreshire during high winds, which sparked widespread panic for many living with or close to turbines. However, the incident was a one-off; it occurred due to a fault with the brakes, stopping the head of the turbine pointing in the right direction and is a very rare occurrence.

As a result, the chances of witnessing a falling tree are far greater than any malfunction of wind turbines. If anything, the high wind speeds are only helping to produce the electricity we need, so no reason to panic.