Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Sustainability


This is a familiar sight as you cross the footbridge over the River Aire into Roberts Park - and one that I have had cause to study a bit more closely than usual recently.  The local council is proposing to build a small hydro-electric turbine on this weir.  They recently exhibited the initial plans (see here) and began a consultation with the local community about the idea.

Mock photo of proposed turbine housing, from Bradford Council website
I am, generally speaking, in favour of the idea of renewable energy and I feel quite strongly too that people shouldn't be in favour but then say "Not in my backyard". So I suppose at the moment I'm 'warmly neutral' about the idea.  I looked at the plans and the computer-generated mock photographs of the plant (left).  It would alter the look of this localised area quite a lot.... There would be low stone building jutting out (where the man is sitting, in my photo) to house the turbine, with a 'fish ladder' beside it to enable fish to migrate upstream more easily. After much pondering, I felt that it wasn't too obtrusive and that we would all get used to the visual change.  It would mean you'd have to walk across its turfed roof to get the view of the New Mill and the weir that you have today from the existing path (see here) - but again no doubt folks would soon get used to that. You would be able to look through a glass roof panel to see the turbine, which could be interesting, and it would be fun to see fish jumping.. if they did.

On the minus side, I'd be concerned about the noise - a continuous rumble, I gather. The water makes a noise as it is, but that's quite different from a mechanical rumble. Several mature trees would be lost. And I don't suppose the construction work would be much fun.  It seems a shame that the park would be disturbed again just when it has been made so nice and people use it a lot. I am unable to judge the overall economics of the scheme - £1.22 million to construct, to produce energy to power 100 homes... It would be good if it has some direct benefit to the local community but it won't really. It won't be Saltaire directly that gets the power or any income from it. The Council seems to be using this as a guinea-pig scheme towards its target of getting 20% of its energy from renewable means by 2020 and I'm not sure that using a World Heritage Site as a guinea-pig is entirely a good idea!

No doubt there will be plenty argued on both sides for months.  I will watch the debate with interest. I wonder what Sir Titus would say?

7 comments:

  1. I think, for most people, it's a heart and head thing. The heart says no to further blots on the landscape, but the head knows that our increasing energy demands have to be met somehow. I imagine Sir Titus raised a few eyebrows in his time, too.

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  2. It looks fine to me, and necessary too.

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  3. It is a problem. We need to develop sustainable energy and it is difficult to build anything that generates electricity without blotting the landscape but this one doesn't look too intrusive. However, it seems strange that the locals won't benefit.

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  4. I am not sure in this case that objections are "Not In Your Backyard" as I believes that Saltaire and Roberts Park belongs to us all and therefore any attempt to mess with it would get a "Not in our collective backyard" from me.

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  5. Everything seems to be more attractive in the abstract, doesn't it? Things get messy when implementation arrives. After a career as an environmental professional working in the energy field, your scenario is very familiar to me. I learned to accept that any energy production will have negative environmental consequences, and to advocate for those that had the least. Unless, of course, we want to return to life as we knew it in the middle ages.

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  6. A low head hydroelectric project like this probably makes the most sense of any renewable energy project and can certainly be made with less adverse impact on the site than the windmills or solar farms that are so trendy today. However, it doesn't look like there is much of a vertical drop for the river, so the economics might be strained. And, don't get too excited about seeing fish jumping upriver on the fish ladders. In our area, the government finally just gave up on the idea of getting river salmon upriver on the Connecticut River after having wasted decades and tens of millions of dollars without getting a meaningful number of fish to go upriver.

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  7. Oh, and Sir Titus would have done this a century ago if he thought the economics justified it.

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