Help Save Solway Moss

By Charles Paxton

People who visit Cumbria tend to do so for our landscape. With some of the most beautiful countryside in the British Isles on our doorsteps, landscape conservation is an important topic for many Cumbrians. Uunderstandably, we get quite riled when we hear of developments that threaten our landscape heritage.

On Saturday, June 4th I went along with some like-minded friends to a place near Longtown to participate in a demonstration and panel discussion against a wind farm proposal on Solway Moss. The threat in this instance is a proposal to build a wind farm of giant (125m tall) turbines on rare peat moss habitat favoured by curlews and migrant geese.

In addition to learning more about the Solway Moss itself, community conservation volunteers who’d won their own battles against maldevelopment shared strategic tips on how to prevail against the further proliferation of wind farms elsewhere in Cumbria. This is so important because each small community so beset faces very similar challenges. Anyone who watched BBC2’s Windfarm Wars documentary series will have a good idea of the attrition involved, but should not give way to despond. Thankfully the winds of change are turning against the inappropriate siting of wind-farms now.

Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and the Border speaking out against inappropriate developments such as Solway Moss

Here’s my account of the day:

I’m very glad that I attended the June 4th demonstration against industrial scale wind turbines on Solway Moss and the public meeting and panel discussion that followed in Longtown’s Memorial Hall. I learned a lot. Our MP for Penrith and the Border, Rory Stewart responded to appeals from his constituents to protect our landscape with the passion and efficacy that is so characteristic of him.

It was the first time in Cumbria that such a wide range of anti-windfarm groups had assembled to voice their collective concern. It was especially heartening to see so many ladies and gentlemen, from the very young to the mature, gathered in defense of this rare raised peat bog habitat, haunt of wildlife and historic battlefield. Clearly undaunted by the concluding episode of BBC’s Windfarm Wars, it was good to hear representatives of various local landscape defense groups speaking out about the threats that overhang their lives. The message on one placard was particularly memorable, “No turbines near Nan”. I heartily agree with such a prohibition and when the time comes to write a letter of objection to this project – which I certainly will do, that will be one of my reasons for objection.

As Rory poignantly observed, the fight for landscape integrity is likely to continue beyond the span of our lives. Why should Nan’s head be overhung by this sword of Damocles?

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After the demo we circumnavigated the north side of the Moss and admired the sizable remaining forest cover from a distance. It’s quite hard to imagine a worse place to put a giant wind farm than on a natural carbon sink in a flat-as-a-pancake flood plain where the 125m tall turbines will pose a potentially lethal obstacle to the night-flying migratory birds of the Solway wetlands. There’s no way the landscape will gel with these enormous machines or “flow” around them.

The plan to erect nine of these bobdignagian behemoths on the site is opposed by people on both sides of the border, Scots and English. Scottish landscapes have been savaged by a recent proliferation of these machines, Ayrshire particularly. An area of the Cambrian mountains in Mid Wales that rejected the offer of National Park protection in the mid-70s is now being vandalised beyond reasonable measure. The lessons are there to be learned.

Enthusiastic applause at Rory's concluding speech

Enthusiastic applause at Rory's concluding speech - Longtown Memorial Hall

At the panel discussion in Longtown’s memorial hall, Dr. Mike Hall of the FELLS group gave a short but powerful presentation on the issue.

The 1000’s of tons of reinforced concrete that would serve as the turbines’ foundations, plus tracks, ditches and cable trenches are likely to have a deleterious effect on the surrounding peat, drying it out, shrinking it and returning  millennia’s worth of stored atmospheric carbon to the air, offsetting any savings achieved by the turbines which, in any case will become less and less as cleaner power stations are expected to replace the older dirtier ones.

Using the Government’s own data, Dr. Mike Hall showed that the  expected emission savings of turbines like these (if allowed) will have fallen from 860kg for each megawatt hour generated  in 2000 to 430kg today with a projection of just 70 kg for each megawatt hour by 2030. This clearly demonstrates that, in terms of climate change, wind turbines are not fit for purpose.

Rory Stewart informed us that the threat to Cumbria’s £2 billion annual revenue from tourism that giant wind turbines represent flies in the face of sensible economic planning and quite apart from that opportunity cost, the intense human suffering and social division that wind farms cause nearby residents is unacceptable.

He added that a switch from older Coal to new advanced Gas-fired power stations could reduce our CO2 emissions by a hefty 50% and would represent a far more effective strategy to meet Government climate change obligations.

It seems to me that in the light of the three new nuclear power stations planned for Cumbria’s energy coast and the switch from Coal to Gas-fired power stations it is becoming nigh-on impossible to justify the erection of wind farms in environmentally sensitive locations and places where such projects do not enjoy majority support from the local population.

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Join Peaceful Protest Sat. 4th of June To Protect Solway Moss Against Windfarm Threat

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart will speak at a  protest meeting planned for Saturday June 4th  in response to his constituents’ urging that he help them to protect our landscape from wind farm developments that many feel are contextually inappropriate.

The demonstration is at the site of the proposed wind farm development on the Solway Moss, nearby the historic battlefield, where developers propose to erect 425ft high turbines on a site of extreme natural value. Where once they fought, many Scots and English stand united now, in condemning the proposal.

Even if you think that wind turbines have a role to play in our nation’s renewable energy mix, few locations could be considered less appropriate for a cluster of 415 ft tall wind turbines than Solway Moss.  The tranquility and natural beauty of Solway Moss, a rare Cumbrian peat bog and home to resident and migratory bird-life may be threatened if plans by energy giant EDF to build 9 giant wind turbines there are allowed to go ahead. Projected to tower 125 meters tall from ground to blade tip, the turbines could significantly impact folk north and south of the border too, “up to 1.5 miles away at Springfield, Gretna Green, Gretna, Longtown and Netherby Hall” according to an article in The News and Star,  in addition to being potentially harmful to wildlife such as barnacle geese.
Protesters will assemble near Plumpe Farm, DG16 5HD just north-west of Longtown, at 11:30am on Saturday 4th June.
Directions are attached below, but here also is a link to the spot:

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&q=the+plumpe+farm+dg16+5ht&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Plumpe+Farm,+Gretna,+Dumfriesshire+DG16+5HT,+United+Kingdom&ll=55.001251,-3.037033&spn=0.103774,0.220757&z=12

Please bring banners, placards and anything else you think will be effective! There will be speeches and an outdoor press conference. Participants
will then re-assemble at Longtown Memorial Hall community centre, CA6 5SJ (http://www.longtowncommunitycentre.org.uk/) at 13:15pm for an
open meeting, to include a panel discussion and an informal Q&A session including guest Dr Mike Hall of FELLS, who will be making a
presentation.

wind_demo_schedule_june2011

DUDDON ESTUARY TIDAL ENERGY STUDY UNDERWAY

By Luke Diccio of Cumbria Vision

A STUDY is underway to explore options for tidal energy generation across the Duddon Estuary in South Cumbria. Tidal barrages, fences, reefs and other innovative technologies will all be considered along with the potential for a road link between Barrow-in-Furness and Millom at the southern tip of Britain’s Energy Coast™.

Regeneration organisation Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria has commissioned consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff to undertake a feasibility study which will help to identify the best options for any potential development. Parsons Brinckerhoff will review the findings of previous studies carried out by Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine for the Department for Trade and Industry back in 1994; while taking into account the recent revival of interest in tidal energy and the introduction of challenging renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.

Previous studies have suggested the Duddon Estuary has potential to generate around 100MW of energy – enough to power in the region of 200,000 homes – and provide a new transport link that would cut 17 miles off the current journey between Barrow and Millom.

This latest study for a Duddon Estuary Tidal Energy Scheme will examine options from an energy, infrastructure and environmental perspective. It will asses the suitability of existing and emerging tidal technologies, set against the cost of development and, of huge importance, the potential environmental impact of any scheme. It will also set options against the wider context of the pressing need to update Cumbria’s connection to the National Grid and to improve transport links in Furness and West Cumbria to support the wider Britain’s Energy Coast™ initiative.

The study has been funded with a £30,000 grant from Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria and a further £30,000 from the Carbon Challenge Fund, which is administered by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria is to hold a workshop for invited key stakeholders in March, and a second more comprehensive workshop before it publishes the findings of the study in the summer.

Stuart Cowperthwaite, Programme Director of Britain’s Energy Coast West Cumbria, said: “With Cumbria poised to play an important role in tackling the pressing issues of climate change and energy security through the Britain’s Energy Coast initiative, it is an ideal time to revisit and update the potential for tidal energy generation across the Duddon Estuary. Alongside tidal schemes being considered for Morecambe Bay and the Solway Firth; continued offshore and emerging community-owned onshore developments; and the County’s first farm-based anaerobic digestion plant about to come on line, we are starting to see a brighter, more prosperous and greener future emerge.”

Simon Sjenitzer, Strategy Director at Cumbria Vision, said: “Tidal power is in constant development and therefore it is important we examine all existing and emerging technologies to find the best possible option for the Duddon Estuary, along with other schemes for the Solway Firth and Morecambe Bay. Cumbria already has a strong cluster of businesses involved in tidal energy which could play an important part in delivering schemes not only in Cumbria, but in Britain and further afield.”

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive, Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) said: “As part of our commitment to creating a low carbon economy, thorough delivery of the Climate Change Action Plan the NWDA continues to work with regional partners on a range of projects and initiatives such as the Carbon Challenge Fund. The Duddon Estuary Tidal Energy Scheme will also compliment the work we have undertaken for the Solway Firth and the Mersey, and allow us to identify how we can help meet the government’s targets relating to renewable energy generation and carbon reduction.”

The start of the Duddon Estuary feasibility study comes just a few weeks after the publication of the Solway Firth Energy Feasibility Study, which identified options for four tidal barrages, two lagoons and three tidal reefs which could generate between 100MW and 6GW of energy. The findings can be found at www.solwayenergygateway.co.uk.

The importance of tidal energy in Cumbria’s push to become a major generator of low carbon and renewable energy, was outlined in a recent study written by renowned environmental scientist Sir Martin Holdgate entitled The Scope for Renewable Energy in Cumbria. While Sir Martin outlined the huge potential for tidal schemes he stressed the importance of striking a balance between energy generation and the need to protect Cumbria’s stunning natural environment.

The Scope for Renewable Energy in Cumbria says Cumbria is poised to meet a third of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, and double that by 2050. By 2050 the County could become a significant exporter of renewable energy with 5.5 gigawatts (5.5GW) of installed capacity, and meet the energy needs of over 300,000 people through a vibrant mix of wind, hydro, tidal, solar, geothermal and biomass. In turn this could create and safeguard in the region of 7,000 jobs and bring a significant boost to businesses and investors. The full study and its findings are available to download at the Renewable Energy section of www.cumbriavision.co.uk.

Feasibility Study For Solway Tidal Barrage Renewable Energy Project

This is good news! Tidal power is a very promising form of clean energy.
SOLWAY ENERGY GATEWAY STUDY WELCOMED

ECONOMIC development agency Cumbria Vision has welcomed the publication of a feasibility study on the potential for renewable energy generation across the Solway Firth.

The Solway Firth Energy Feasibility Study has identified options for four tidal barrages, two lagoons and three tidal reefs, which could generate between 100MW to 6GW of energy. Any development would result in significant investment and job creation in West Cumbria, while providing enough green energy to power hundreds of thousands of homes. It could also create an important transport link between north east Cumbria and southern Scotland, bringing wider economic benefits to both sides of the Solway Firth.

The Solway Estuary is the second most powerful estuary in Britain after the Severn Estuary. Its massive potential was outlined in the recently published report, The Scope for renewable Energy in Cumbria**, written by former Government energy adviser and environmental scientist Sir Martin Holdgate on behalf of Cumbria Vision’s Renewable Energy Panel.

Sir Martin identified the proposed Solway Energy Gateway and Bridge Across the Bay (Morecambe Bay) – located to the north and south of Britain’s Energy Coast™ – as having great potential to help Britain meet tough renewable and carbon reduction targets. However, he stressed the importance of striking a balance between energy generation and the need to protect Cumbria’s stunning natural environment.

Simon Sjenitzer, Strategy Director at Cumbria Vision – one of the partners behind the Britain’s Energy Coast™ initiative – said: “We now have a number of options on the table for this exciting project – the real challenge now lies in agreeing on the best way forward. The huge potential of a Solway Energy Gateway is obvious, but given the many environmental protections in place and the large scale costs of tidal development, it is essential we look to identify an option which is acceptable, achievable and can generate a substantial amount of green energy.”

“Tidal power has an important role to play in the Britain’s Energy Coast™ initiative and the wider push across Cumbria to become a significant generator in low carbon and renewable energy. It is important we replicate the national wish for an energy mix, and schemes such as the Solway Energy Gateway will help make a valuable contribution to the Government’s renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.

The Solway Firth Energy Feasibility Study examined options for energy generation against technical, financial, environmental and socio-economic impacts. It can be downloaded at http://www.solwayenergygateway.co.uk.

The next step is to raise awareness of the potential for development within the market by presenting a report at the BWEA Wave and Tidal Conference on March 3-4. Developers and utility companies interested in the scheme can contact Nigel Catterson of nb21c on 07952 568062.