Winston the windturbine: A site visit

Jon Beeson from Severn Trent Water shows us around the new wind turbine that has been erected at the Newthorpe site.
Jon Beeson from Severn Trent Water shows us around the new wind turbine that has been erected at the Newthorpe site.

When I took the walk down to the base with Jon it was a frosty but sunny morning. In one direction is Bennerley Viaduct, in front of us is Cotmanhay and behind runs the A610 and Ikea.

We reach the gates securing the site and there he is.....Winston and his three blades towering above us.

The blades, which weigh ten tonnes each and can reach speeds of up to 150mph, are facing the viaduct now, but with its own built-in weather station, the turbine is programmed to turn towards the wind — a process called ‘yawing’ — and either feather or pitch its blades so that it generates the maximum amount of power.

“We’re all trying to cut down on our bills, even us,” explained Severn Trent’s renewable energy project specialist, Jon Beeson.

“The fact is, and our customers may not realise this, but they are paying towards our electricity costs every time they pay their water bill.

“With Winston and other similar projects across the country, we hope to keep those costs to a minimum, electricity prices are only going one way and that means so are water prices.

“We use a lot of power throughout our business and renewable energy is one way of cutting costs for customers and our business.”

As we stood at the base I put some of our readers’ comments to Jon.

Noise is one that keeps cropping up but Jon says there is a simple comeback to that criticism.

“They do make noise but it is minimal and this model is one of the quietest available.

“On top that one of the planning conditions has a noise level attached to it, if we breach that level the turbine comes down.

“Why would we spend the money and effort involved in getting this turbine up and running if we then have to take it down?”

Eyesore is a word used a lot in connection with Winston and his other turbine friends, and one that in his role, Jon is used to hearing.

“They are very big structures and they are very visible, there’s no getting away from that,” he said.

“It’s the same with a lot of things, there are people who like them, people who don’t and then a large majority who are neither here nor there.

“I think if people knew more about them and their benefits then they would see them differently.”

Then I asked Jon a question on behalf of all the nimbyists out there — how would he feel if a planning application was put in to build a turbine of this size near to his home?

“I would totally support it,” he said. “I know what these turbines are capable of and of their many benefits.”

Another concern raised by some readers is that now one has been built the skyline might become littered with turbines, but that can’t be the case as Jon explained: “There are restrictions on how close together they can be and there just isn’t the room here.

“If they are close together you can also get turbulence and that makes them less effective too.”

Flickering, house prices and the amount of energy produced have also been raised when we asked readers on Facebook what they thought of the turbine.

Jon responded: “Flickering isn’t an issue on this site because there aren’t any homes close enough to experience it, national studies have shown that house prices aren’t affected and the turbines are so advanced now that they can generate enormous amounts of electricity.”

Winston will generate 5,000 mega watt hours of electricity a year – equivalent to supplying around 1,500 homes with power.

Winds of six mph are enough to get the blades turning and electricity flowing and Winston will work during winds of up to 60 mph.

Gales just before Christmas, which prevented the blades going on as planned, saw wind speeds of up to 40 and 50mph, so it will take massive gusts to stop the powermaking process.

Jon said: “Because it is an advanced model it can withstand and in fact prefers stronger winds. Throughout the year it should be in use between 80 and 90 per cent of the time.

“There’ll be days where there is no wind but most of the time, and especially at that height, the blades will be blowing.”