Glyndebourne sings praises of wind powered opera

One of the UK’s most famous opera houses says the answer really is blowing in the wind when it comes to cutting energy bills and curbing its environmental impact.

Glyndebourne in Sussex last year raised the curtain on a new 900MW turbine, making it the first UK arts organisation to generate its own power using a large scale wind turbine.

The Enercon turbine was expected to provide 90 per cent of the electricity needed to run Glyndebourne’s operations, including a four month summer festival that presents 120 shows annually to an audience of 150,000 people.

The organisation confirmed late last week it fell fractionally short of the target, but still generated 89 per cent of the electricity is used last year. The shortfall was due to lower than average wind speeds, it said.

The machine has achieved an annual yield of 1,395 MWh over 7,433 operating hours, with average yearly wind speeds of 5.68 metres per second.

Gus Christie, executive chairman of Glyndebourne, hailed the figures as an important step towards its long-term goal of becoming “carbon neutral”.

“We are delighted that these figures have met our predictions – for one turbine to harness the wind on the hill above Glyndebourne and power the opera house represents a huge step in our long-term aspiration of becoming carbon neutral from our direct operations,” he said.

“We are implementing many other energy-saving technologies to further reduce our carbon emissions. We are proud that the turbine has raised awareness of climate change within the local community and among the many audiences who visit us throughout the year.”

“If care is taken to properly site project locations, avoid sensitive habitat areas, employ available options or continue to develop new options for mitigation, and conduct appropriate biological monitoring, the potential impacts of offshore wind power production could in fact be minimal,” concludes one of the studies from the natural resources ministry’s own aquatic research group.

The study goes on to talk about the limitations of doing lab and computer-model studies. “We cannot fully understand the environmental impact that a wind power project will have until we are able to study the response of the local system to the construction and operation of an actual installation in the field.”

It suggests that the next step be small-scale pilot projects, at minimum. “Ultimately, however, the greatest and most valuable knowledge would be gained through focused research and monitoring at commercial-scale demonstration projects throughout the construction phase and over the long-term during operation. Looking ahead, collaboration between government, industry and academic partners to plan and initiate this type of project would be highly valuable.”

Nobody is saying that Ontario should run out and develop 1,000 megawatts of wind tomorrow. But the current surpluses being experienced in the province’s electricity system won’t last forever. Coal generation will be gone within the year. Aging nuclear reactors will soon enough be taken offline for refurbishment or decommissioning.

The power crunch will come. Offshore wind, responsibly developed and set back far enough from the shore, could be an important part of Ontario’s clean energy mix. If we need more research, maybe it’s time we actually dipped our feet in the water and actually built something we can properly study.

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