‘Wye Park needs windmills and a power station’

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Rural wind turbines in Canada: Imperial have been told they will be needed for Wye

Picture 2-4Environmental consultants have told Imperial College that it will have to erect wind turbines in Wye and create a brand new high-tech wood or crop burning power station in order to meet the energy demands of its proposed science park and housing development. The international consultancy Watermans, which has been employed by IC to work on the master plan for Wye, produced a report last month which forecast that the only way the college could meet its own stated intentions for ‘world leading sustainable’ development would be the introduction of controversial turbines and a new Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. This is a system that burns ‘friendly’ fuels and is more efficient than older technologies; an example ‘small’ size CHP plant, of the size expected to be needed for Wye, is already working in Sweden and can be seen in the picture here (click for a closer view).

The secret report from Watermans has, save-wye understands, been buried within Imperial for fear of the public outcry it could cause. Even Ashford Borough Council and Kent County Council, supposedly close partners in the Wye Park project with IC, are unaware of the huge energy demands which IC’s own consultants say will stem from the project if it goes ahead.

While the details of the project itself remain under wraps — for the public anyway — save-wye can reveal that Imperial is exploring three different options in its master plan. The energy loads of the three scenarios range in scale from 31m to 51m kWh hours of gas per year and 11m KWh to 21m KWh of electricity. Imperial has publicly stated that it intends Wye Park to be energy efficient and use renewable technologies and low/zero carbon technology. The costs of those demands are made plain by Watermans who predict that the entire existing utility infrastructure for the area is incapable of coping with the scale of the development which will provide ‘significant challenges’ in going ahead. A new water system and a substantial new infrastructure for foul and surface water would have to be constructed, along with an entirely new telecommunications network.

But it is in the area of power supply that some of the biggest shocks lie. Watermans say that the development will require at least two wind turbines, each 50 metres high with a blade diameter of 20 metres, to provide just 20 per cent of the electrical load to the research and science buildings alone, excluding the housing development. It will also require a CHP station generating u p to 2mw of electrical power to provide around 25 per cent of total site demand, and 33 per cent of peak heating.

The same report also lists the size of the potential development on which Watermans were asked to work. The different options are…

  1. A research institute of 30,000 sq m taking three hectares, a research park of 60,000 to 100,000 sq metres, and 1254,00 sq m of housing, the entire site taking up 49 hectares
  2. A similar sized site but with an extra element of 160,000 sq m of so-called ‘endowment housing’, adding up to 89 hectares
  3. The same size research institute and park but with 143,600 sq m of housing, 15,000 sq m of additional commercial building, and 10,000 sq m of civic property, covering 169 hectares

Pv Panel-1The science park buildings would also feature solar techology with rooftop photovoltaic panels which produce the kind of building seen on the right. Kent peg tiles they are not.

Local farmers thinking that the new crop-burning plant will be an answer to their agricultural problems should start to investigate a species known as miscanthus or elephant grass. Along with wood, this is seen as one of the most promising potential fuels for Wye’s new power station. If the plans go ahead, local residents should steel themselves for years of disruption. According to Watermans’ buried report, the entire water supply between Wye and Brook may need to be diverted to meet the demand of the new development, along with huge constructions of telecommunications and new power and gas lines — not counting any new roads required.

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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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3 Responses to ‘Wye Park needs windmills and a power station’

  1. Harriet Vasanthakumar says:

    As a fan of renewable energy sources – which are crucial if we are to tackle climate change – I don’t believe that any wind turbines would be bad for Wye. Indeed, I believe it would be good for people to be conscious of their energy and where it comes from. As long as they were sensitively sited, I would welcome them with open arms.

    However – to build turbines off the back of proposals that are inherently unsustainable – makes no sense at all.

  2. Martin Page says:

    It is clear from this article that the proposed use of wind turbines and elephant grass will only partially meet the future energy needs of Wye. There is though an alternative solution.
    Field measurements over the last two years of Radon levels and soil Radium concentration in the various Head deposits in the Wye area, assuming secular equilibrium, indicate a Uranium concentrations of 1-2 ppm.
    These deposits overlay lower chalk and the Wye bore hole log records some 16 metres for the main Head deposit. Given that it is about 1 square kilometre and a soil density of 1.65 Kg/m3, this gives some 30 tons Uranium 238. Which contains enough Uranium 235 for at least 3 atomic bombs. Or alternatively the equivalent of 1,000,000 tons of coal ( assuming 30% efficiency for the power station ). This makes the idea of wind and elephant grass energy look very silly.

  3. Martin Page says:

    Correction, soil density 1650 Kg/m3.

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