I spent today with about 30 other ‘green’ people, a score of us in a bus and the remainder in shared cars, visiting renewable energy projects.
First was a large solitary wind turbine on hill. We had to walk getting on for a mile to get to it as the bus driver refused to drive along the farm track. People complain about the noise wind turbines generate but this one was inaudible beyond a furlong; closer, it was no worse than next door’s washing machine. The dual carriageway, getting on for a mile away was much louder!
The chap who had organised the construction of the turbine several years ago told us the tale. It’s second hand and originally was in Gotland. He explained to me how a small wind vane atop the pole detects changes in wind direction and instructs a motor to turn the cogs so that the vanes are facing in the most efficient direction. Inside the tower/pole we could see the electronic dials recording the amount of electricity generated. It’s surprising how many people can get into a pole!
As we made our way back to the bus I was chatting with the lass who was organising the event. She told me her Father (or was it Father in Law?) had retired and taken up beekeeping and has 7 hives in NE Devon.
Our next visit was to the Union Arms in Dorchester. They used to serve a good pint there when it was a pub but, unfortunately, it closed about half a century ago and is now a Quaker Meeting House with lots of photo-voltaic panels on the roof. Lunch had been laid on for us, an excellent buffet, and there was also a powerpoint showing, month by month, how much electricity had been generated since installation. There was much mingling and chatting. There was quite an age range: the youngest a child still being breast-fed and the oldest maybe a decade older than me.
After lunch, we headed for Maiden Newton and visited my kids’ old school! That now has about 40 solar panels on a south facing roof. We didn’t stay long as it came on to rain. On the bus the other organiser told me his partner is Polish and her Father keeps bees there. When they go and visit, they come back with several litre containers of honey.
Our last visit was to the Franciscan Friary at Hilfield where they have a biomass boiler. The timber is sourced locally and first goes through a chipper and left in a massive heap in a barn to dry. It is moved to the boiler by an Archimedes screw. Brother Jonathan showed us another heap of chippings with which they are having problems as it refuses to dry. It’s Western Red Cedar. They’ll probably leave it for a few more months and then mix it with more combustible chippings. They pipe the hot water in well insulated pipes underground to serve their varied large buildings. If they were ordinary small houses the system could heat and provide hot water for 20 of them.
They have been given 10 acres of land nearby and want to plant trees on it for sustainability. They are undecided as to species. Oak is too slow growing; ash would be good but the ash die-back disease has recently been found nearby. Poplar, like the cedar, doesn’t dry well. Willow grows rapidly but have little substance. Sycamore has been recommended. They will probably plant a wide range of species so as to support as many varieties of other creatures as possible.
While we were discussing all this in the barn with the boiler I suddenly noticed that I was standing next to a stack of new-looking supers as tall as me! Later I spotted an open parcel with new crown boards etc. Bro. Jonathan told me that the beekeeper has about three hives nearby.
Then it was time to go. Driving back along the ridge there was another shower and there was a marvellous double rainbow! The rain that falls on one side of that road ends up in the Bristol Channel and on the other side in the English Channel.