FAMILIES in part of Northumberland have got their first glimpse of what will soon be a major new wind farm near their former pit communities.
ScottishPower Renewables has completed the construction of the first of 13 massive turbines which will be built on land around the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium complex at Lynemouth.
The milestone comes as a fierce debate continues over whether too many wind farms are being given the green light across Northumberland.
The 121.5 metre-high turbines being built at Lynemouth are intended to generate enough renewable energy to power almost 15,000 homes.
Work on the 26 megawatt wind farm started last October with the creation of the site infrastructure and access roads for the machinery and equipment.
Construction of the turbines began in July and the project is due for completion towards the end of this year – although it is on course to be producing electricity in November.
They will add 13 more imposing structures to a landscape and skyline which have been dominated for decades by Alcan’s giant industrial chimneys.
The turbines will be 40 metres taller than the eight chimneys at the aluminium smelter, which have been local landmarks since the 1970s. The ScottishPower wind farm was given the go-ahead by the Government in early 2009 following a lengthy planning wrangle, which culminated in a public inquiry.
The site spanned the boundary between the former Castle Morpeth and Wansbeck Council areas, so ScottishPower had to seek permission from both authorities. In 2007, Wansbeck approved the scheme, but Castle Morpeth councillors refused permission for the turbines planned in their area, leaving the project in limbo.
Following an appeal and public inquiry, Government ministers backed the recommendation of planning inspector David Cullingford and granted approval. The 2009 decision sparked anger among people in the nearby villages of Ellington, Lynemouth and Cresswell, who opposed the wind farm on the grounds that it will hamper efforts to regenerate the former coal mining stronghold.
Yesterday former borough and parish councillor Arnold Baker, who lives in Cresswell and spoke against the scheme at the public inquiry, said: “I have seen the first of the turbines and it is very prominent and every bit as big as I thought it would be.
“As one of the elected community representatives at the time I was vehemently opposed to this development because I saw Lynemouth and Ellington as potential dumping grounds for schemes that would have been unacceptable elsewhere.
“Now that the first turbine has gone up I will watch the progress on the remainder with interest, and will be keen to hear the views of the community. It could be that people will just get accustomed to them. We need some community payback from this scheme, and I hope that whatever has been negotiated with the developer is satisfactory and will be put to good use.”
Kenny Peberdy, ScottishPower Renewables’ operations director, said: “Lynemouth wind farm is an important element of our wind development programme, and is a fantastic example of utilising the UK’s wind resources.”