Sacrificing Somerset to Save the World?
In this new regular column, Sophie Atherton delves deeper into the pressing issues that affect your Somerset lives. Initially we take a look at renewable energy and its impact on the county
I can remember climbing Brean Down as a child and thinking how high it was and how marvellous the view. If someone had told me then that there were plans to build a massive wall from there to Wales I would have thought it was one of those fibs that adults tell children to wind them up. There’s a lot of talk in the county now about ‘renewable energy’ and, of course, the Severn Barrage forms part of that debate. But it’s not just about the might of the estuary’s tides; it’s how hard the wind blows across the Levels and also the ever-controversial power station at Hinkley. It seems that Somerset has the power to save the world, or at least the power generated here will play a part in saving it. But do we have to trash the county’s beautiful landscape and wildlife to achieve that?The 14 wind turbines planned across two sites on the Levels have incurred the wrath not just of local residents, who say that some of them would be less than 600m from people’s homes, but also of conservationists from both Natural England and the RSPB.RSPB conservation officer Richard Archer says: “We’re very concerned about these turbines and the precedent that could be set by locating damaging wind farms at this location. The sites lie halfway between two areas packed with birds and there’s a high risk of aerial collisions as ducks and waders move between them. The energy companies should be working with the local authority and wildlife experts on this so we can get a better understanding of how the birds move between these internationally important wetlands before they submit a planning application.”Maybe so-called green energy simply isn’t as environmentally friendly as some would have us believe, but if we’re to avoid the climate catastrophes that apparently await us we’ve got to come up with a way of generating the energy we all depend on without making a mess of the world around us.Colin Rodgers, Scientific Officer for campaign group Parents Concerned about Hinkley (PCAH) and a delegate to the Safegrounds group, which looks at ways of clearing up on nuclear sites, thinks the estuary is the answer and that Somerset can fly the flag for renewable energy without the county being poisoned and blighted in the process.“The tidal reef suggested between Minehead and Aberthaw is much better than the big concrete wall that a barrage would be. It could be built more quickly and because it is conventional engineering it would last for hundreds of years without needing to be rebuilt like the nuclear power stations,” he says.Clearly, the renewable energy debate is exercising local people’s minds. Don’t be fooled into thinking campaigners against wind farms or nuclear power station are just NIMBYs. But if you meet one who isn’t looking into what the genuinely environmentally friendly alternatives are and backing those options, tell them they ought to be.
Don’t be shy in coming forward with your opinions; tell us what you think at: somerset.greatbritishlife.co.uk