University awaiting decision on wind turbines

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Just as the UN summit in Copenhagen finished, Lancaster University submitted plans to the local council to develop two wind turbines to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Lancaster is one of three universities to receive a £5 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and will invest £2.3 million of their own money towards constructing two 2.1MW wind turbines which are to be built on the Hazelrigg site, to the east of the M6 motorway.

The proposal to create two wind turbines would reduce the university energy consumption by one third – equivalent to a cut of 72,000 tonnes and £8.1 million, which was described on their website as “exceptional” by the deputy Chief Executive of HEFCE. This development would give Lancaster the accolade of being the first university to install a wind energy source, giving another boost towards meeting the targets set by the UK government in the Climate Change Act, which includes an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gases by 2050.
However, the project has met with mixed feedback from the surrounding residents and other environmental groups. Between the 14th and 18th December, the official consultation period for the project, saw local residents come to University House to submit their thoughts on the subject. Whilst many praised the proposal and spoke of their support for something they saw as a great asset for the university the negative viewpoints went very much in line with common criticisms. One comment from the consultation period stated that the two turbines would be “too imposing”.

On campus, the project has met with some very favourable views including our newly elected Green Officer, Simon Mair, who told SCAN: “I am very pleased with the project’s proposal, reducing the electricity consumption of the university by a third is an impressive, and much needed, reduction in our emissions.”

Lancaster University has attempted to quell any possible criticism by being upfront with imaging and predicting where affected areas would be by shadow flicker and the turbines theoretical visibility to the residents of Hazelrigg and surrounding areas. Nevertheless, it seems despite the real advantage of allowing the university to become more self-sufficient and an example for all other universities, the problems that affect all wind turbine sites do not avoid Lancaster.

The criticism of noise is a problem, given that any noise from the wind turbines would add to that of the M6 with which Lancaster University is already familiar. Another critic queried the logic behind two large turbines instead of several smaller ones when the positioning of the two wind turbines according to the plans would place the second turbine “too near the properties.”

However, the time to leave feedback has now finished, and the decision now rests with the council as to the advancement of the project, but there is every chance of a problem for the university, as they are not the first group to submit a wind turbine proposal for consideration. As recently as the beginning of December, another plan for a £54 million wind turbine development by Community Windpower was rejected 6 votes to 4 at a special meeting by Hornby Parish council meeting. It was reported by the Lancaster Gazette that the meeting was attended by members of several anti-turbine groups and speaking afterwards to a Gazette reporter Parish councillor, Arthur Grundy, said: “I think only two people spoke in favour of the windmills.” The city council is planning to review the decision at a later date.

Of course, in this time of uncertainty, Lancaster will not give up in its quest to reduce its carbon footprint. GreenLancaster has been running a Carbon Footprint League table of flats from the Country, Grizedale and Pendle eco-residences during four weeks of Michaelmas term where the top three flats received an award at a ceremony held in Week 10 and there are continual opportunities to volunteer and get involved with eco-work.

Lancaster University are currently waiting on Lancaster City Council approval of the scoping request. With an approval, Lancaster University will submit their planning application and following the completion and positive assessment of the community consultation process, construction is projected to begin in 2010.

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