Letter in Cumberland News: 4th July 2008

Why not look to past to provide power for our future?

I read with interest the article under the heading “Should windfarms be the last resort?” (The Cumberland News, June 20).

I was surprised by the comment from Jill Perry of Friends of the Earth that; “turbines were a better option for Cumbria than solar, wave or hydroelectric power”.

It seems to me that Ms Perry misunderstands the history of renewable energy in Cumbria.

For hundreds of years there were probably thousands of waterwheels being used at mills and mines in the county, a form of renewable energy.

After World War One, my great-grandfather at Low Mill, Brough near Appleby used a waterwheel at the farm to drive a generator which supplied electricity to the village.

In the 1950s, a pub landlord near Hesket Newmarket built his own waterwheel to produce electricity for the pub.

In 1891 the Greenside Lead Mine at Glenridding near Penrith became the first metal mine in the UK to have an underground electric locomotive and winding engine using electricity produced by a hydroelectric power station under Helvellyn.

At the same time, Patterdale Hall installed a hydroelectric plant near Grisedale Bridge and a newspaper report from February 1891 stated that St Patrick’s Church at Patterdale had electric lights and the school would soon follow.

By the 1930s, there were a further two hydroelectric plants at Greenside Mine (in 1992 one was reinstated and is operational) and another one at the Ullswater Hotel.

A Carlisle textile company produced its own electricity as part of the production process and this continued up to the 1960s.

From the mid 1800s turbines, built predominately by a Kendal company, were being used at dozens of sites, some producing electricity and others powering machinery.

There are many sites in the county where hydroelectricity could be generated without spoiling the landscape and this company, with a world-wide reputation, could build the turbines and provide additional, well-paid employment which Cumbria desperately needs.

Some potential sites are Holme Head Bay, Carlisle (already identified), the spillways at the dams of Thirlmere and Haweswater and the sites where previously there were hydroelectric plants. These could be brought back into production as has recently happened at Coniston.

I cannot understand why there seems to be a rush to build windfarms when other options, especially hydroelectricity, do not appear to be even considered and yet over 100 years ago Cumbria was at the forefront of producing this type of energy.

17 Gilbert Road

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