The perfect site for windfarms has obviously to be somewhere vast and breezy and that’s why millions of pounds have been spent transforming the hills over Cliviger with the most-up-to-date turbines.
The idea of windfarms covering hectares of green land may not sit comfortably with some people but they have now become part of the United Kingdom landscape and are regarded as essential as a source of renewable energy for the future.
Cliviger’s Coal Clough windfarm was one of the first to be built in Britain in 1992 and ScottishPower Renewables have recently replaced the original 24 wind turbines – which will be exported for use again – with eight modern, taller ones to make them even more efficient.
They admit they had to overcome obstacles, such as concerns from local residents about the number of lorries travelling through Mereclough and Overtown. There have also been environmental issues to deal with, including moving great crested newts off one part of the land to another to protect them.
But three of the eight 67m turbines – the original ones were 36m – are now connected to the grid and generating electricity and the other five will be turning by the end of the month.
“This was a pretty unique project,” said Paul Concannon, assistant project manager at ScottishPower Renewables.
“The original Coal Clough windfarm was one of the first to be built in Britain and has served the area well for more than 20 years.
“The lifespan of a turbine is around 25 years so basically they had come to the end of their lives. We needed to update them and this site is only one of a few across the country that has been repowered.
“These eight are more productive than the 24 as we have increased output from 9.6 megawatts to 16 megawatts.
“This is a perfect area for them, the wind is always blowing, it cuts out the need for oil and we can produce electricity from it in a cheaper way,” added Mr Concannon
Cliviger residents did raise concerns when planning was applied for in 2009 for the new turbines as they were worried about the lorries which were going to be used to transport the large parts to the windfarm travelling around the windy roads in the village.
However, ScottishPower Renewables, who began work on the new windfarm in January this year after consent was given last year, made sure they were in regular contact with the residents to ease their fears.
“We could understand their worries,” said Mr Concannon. “And it’s important for us to deal with these. We had regular talks with Cliviger Parish Council and there were letters and leaflets every stage of the way to keep residents updated.
“The roads are steep around Mereclough and it would have been tricky to transport the large parts for the turbines on them.
“There was a lot of planning and discussions and we built a through road, using soil stabilisation and a local contractor to cause the minimum disruption, and this road, while not in general use, can be used by the farmer now. The residents seemed happy the way the parts were delivered and it all ran smoothly.
“We also have to consider the environment, it is a farmer’s field and it will be used again by the farmer and there was also some great crested newts which had to be collected and moved to the other side of the field to protect them.
“We also make sure we have habitat management areas among our windfarms so the area can regenerate itself and can be used by birds and other wildlife. We will also be undertaking tree planting so it helps everything blend in.
“Plus we will be granting a Community Benefits Fund to the tune of £32,000 a year, we will be employing locally and obviously there are the general benefits of renewable energy.” The energy generated by the windfarm will firstly go to Burnley but will go into the grid and be used all over the country. Everyone has their view on windfarms but to me the look good and they do a vital job,” added Mr Concannon.
While not all may agree, they are increasingly vital as other sources of energy come under threat - and something to think about when switching on the kettle for your morning cuppa.