Global environmental challenges
by Kwok W. Wan
As I travelled up to Cumbria to visit E.ON’s offshore Robin Rigg wind farm in northwest England, I passed through the Lake District, a place famed for its natural beauty. Out of the train window, I saw grassy banks, craggy hills, farm fields rolling into moody skies — and lines of giant electricity pylons.
I wondered if the 125 metre tall wind turbines I was about to see would be as much of a scar on the coastline as these unnaturally straight man-made structures on the English countryside. Would they also poke out like huge metal thumbs across the Irish Sea and distract us from the wild beauty of the surrounding lowland hills?
Having never seen an offshore wind farm before, I was aware of the controversy over noise pollution and turbines onshore blighting the landscape. I was also told to look out for towers casting long shadows, and warned the sun shining through the blades could cause a strobe effect which might set off epileptic fits.
The helicopter took off from Carlisle airport towards the 180 megawatt Robin Rigg site and its 60 wind turbines. The 14 mile (22.5 kilometre) trip to the site in the Solway firth would take around 15 minutes. Around two-thirds of the way into our journey the pilot pointed out of the cockpit window. “Look, there it is.”