Eye: Triodos turbines signal winds of change

The first Triodos turbine takes shape, with a Roy Humphrey Group truck in the foreground

The first Triodos turbine takes shape, with a Roy Humphrey Group truck in the foreground - Credit: Archant

WHEN work finishes on the two wind turbines at Eye Airfield, it will become Triodos’s ninth operational wind farm, and its third in Suffolk, joining its projects at Ness Point, Lowestoft, and at Kessingland. SARAH CHAMBERS joined operations manager Adrian Warman as the £7million Eye Wind Farm scheme took shape

REMARKABLY, work on Suffolk’s latest wind farm continued without a hitch through a freezing start to the year, despite snow and Arctic conditions.

In reality, the main work, building the foundations, had already been completed on the two-turbine farm on the Roy Humphrey Group site off the A140, at Eye’s former airfield.

The structure itself arrived in sections in the first half of January, ready to form two 130m giants, to the tip of the blade.

The mechanical and electrical fit out should be completed this week and fully tested and inspected next week. The first electricity is expected to be generated from them before the end of this month.

Once operational, the site will generate sufficient power to meet the power needs of the equivalent of 2,830 homes, or of 88% of the homes in the nearby town of Diss, the firm says.

Triodos Renewables, the green energy company behind the scheme, is investing £7million in the Eye wind farm, its third wind turbine development in Suffolk.

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The Eye project is Triodos Renewables’ ninth renewable energy project. In Suffolk, it has enjoyed a successful relationship with Bury St Edmunds-based civil engineers R G Carter and clearly favours the county in its choice of projects.

The Bristol-based firm is part of an ethical banking business, which supports a number of diverse projects. Triodos owns a 126m turbine built at Ness Point in Lowestoft, and two similar-sized turbines at Kessingland, erected in June 2010.

The Kessingland scheme attracted some initial controversy over shadow flicker, but the company said the problem was resolved after it was discovered that anti-flicker equipment had not been installed.

The firm is currently carrying out a three-month study following other complaints about noise at the Kessingland site, and has already made changes to the operation of the turbines to address the issue. It hoped the Eye scheme, built on a brownfield site and also serving four-fifths of the needs of the neighbouring transport firm Roy Humphrey Group, would prove less controversial. The vehicle firm had to develop a renewable technology on site as a condition of its planned expansion, and opted for wind having explored a number of possibilities.

However, the Eye scheme has not proved immune from criticism, despite the turbines’ position next to a chicken litter power plant and within an industrial estate near the main artery road linking Ipswich and Norwich. As soon as the turbines were completed, they came under fire. Andrew Evitt, an Eye town councillor, branded them “a huge intrusion”,

But Triodos operations manager Adrian Warman says: “The fact is that the larger turbines capture a great deal more wind than smaller ones so, proportionally, produce a lot more renewable electricity into the grid as well as supporting the Roy Humphrey Group, so giving them greater security of supply.”

The turbines’ hubs are at 80m, and the blades have 50m radius, meaning at full height the tip of the blade takes them to 130m.

Triodos, a firm based on ethical principles, says it does what it can to work with communities on their concerns and was attracted to this site when it became available partly because of its industrial setting.

Triodos Renewables managing director Matthew Clayton said the Suffolk wind regime is proving “very productive”. The firm has ambitious plans for 2013, and Eye wind farm had got it off to “the best possible start”. “It’s particularly exciting to see another development happening on a brownfield site with a long industrial heritage, and to be able to support the Humphrey Group’s environmental efforts by providing them with clean energy at source,” he said.

Triodos acquired the wind project from Wind Direct, a specialist in steering wind projects through the planning process, in March 2012. Wind Direct gained planning consent for the project in July 2010.

At the start of this year, with the use of cranes, four tower sections were built on top of one another, and at the summit the “nacelle”, a “box” with windows, to which the turbine blades are attached, was placed.

“Obviously Suffolk itself is a great wind resource. There’s a good wind speed. It’s nice and flat,” says. Adrian

The county’s landscape, plus the wind from the sea, makes it a good spot for turbines, although land-based schemes do tend to attract more opposition.

“Kessingland and Lowestoft have both exceeded their targets. Certainly, Kessingland is just over a year operational and it’s exceeded its targets for its first year which is great to see,” says Adrian. “The one at Ness Point has been operational I think for seven years. Over the years, it’s proven that the more investment there is in wind technology and the more demand there is, the more investment goes into the research and the technology continues to improve. The design of the tower becomes better, the design of the blade becomes more efficient.”

Triodos contracts out the building work to specialists but monitors and oversees the projects. Its policy is to use local contractors wherever possible.

“I’m aware there have been a small number of objections at the planning stage but I believe they were all addressed,” he says. There has also been support for the scheme, he adds. “What’s important about this site is it’s an industrial area. There are operations going on round the clock. In terms of any sounds, it’s already an industrial area.”

Carl Humphrey, of Roy Humphrey Group, said Mid Suffolk District Council insisted on renewable energy as a condition for planning being granted for the firm’s new Building No 7.

Operating on a 90 acre site, the firm, employs more than 150 people and carries out a range of services for cars and commercial vehicles, including vehicle sales, servicing, accident repairs, recovery and body repairs. It was started in the early 70s by Carl’s father, Roy Humphrey, who remains at the helm.

“We looked into solar panels, because we have seven large buildings and half of every roof is south-facing. But the A140 sun glare in the middle of summer creates glare. We would never have got planning for that reason. It was looked at. It was explored. The other viable option was wind. Being an old airfield, it’s naturally one of the highest points around and it’s a commercial site for 40 years plus. There’s obviously a power station behind us,” explains Carl.

“It allows us to stabilise our electricity costs for the next up to 25 years. We don’t get free electricity,” he says.

“We still pay for every unit of electricity used but at a lower price and we know what we are going to be paying for the next 25 years.”

“We are largely on track with the project and local residents should see the blades turning soon,” says Adrian.

The Eye project is Triodos’ Renewables fourth scheme to be developed on a brownfield site. The electricity generated will power the host industrial site, significantly alleviating its carbon footprint, says Matthew.

Once operational later in 2013, the site will generate sufficient green electricity to meet the power needs of the equivalent of 2,830 homes, or 88% of the nearby town of Diss’ homes, says Triodos.

Part of the energy from the turbines will be bought by the Humphrey Group, and will meet 80% of the Humphrey Group’s demand at the site.

Triodos, which has more than 5,000 shareholders, is the UK’s most widely-owned renewable energy company and says it focuses on “low financial risk projects that use proven technologies and operate on long-term contracts”.

Over the last three years the company has increased its power generation capacity by 63% and it now owns and operates eight sites around the UK and has a further two in construction, including the Eye project, with a combined capacity of 51.4 MW. It says it is on the right trajectory to reach its aim of 100MW renewable energy operating capacity by 2015.

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