Investigating wind energy with Google Earth

Part one: Batsworthy Cross

This article suggests that Google Earth can be used to make decisions about wind farm sites, by using 3D models to visualize the effects of decisions. The first part looks at a recently proposed site in Devon.

It's not designed as a teaching resource about the advantages and disadvantages of onshore wind energy, but inevitably this topic raises strong feelings. Please post comments here

Batsworthy Cross is the site of a proposed wind farm development by npower renewables (link to web site) According to npower, the site is an excellent location for a wind farm as it has a number of attributes that have allowed the design to have a low environmental impact and a high-energy output, as follows:
• High wind speeds, ensuring high productivity and electrical output
• The site is outside International, National and Local designations for landscape
• The site is outside International and National designations for ecology
• There are few dwellings located close to the site
• It has good access to the electricity grid
• Has good road access via the nearby A361

180° panorama view west from Batsworthy Cross site [photo NJ]

The site is an elevated location close to the A361 North Devon Link road. The Ordnance Survey map extract is centred on the proposed site.
map extract
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

According to The Tiverton Gazette (Jan 24th 2006) campaigners are "sounding the death knell" for rural Devon. The site is certainly attractive, and the wind turbines will be obvious to the thousands of tourists who use the A361. The pictures below show how the site might look after the development. Click each picture to go to a larger version at Flickr:

site view enhanced site view[photos NJ]

I have prepared a Google Earth file comprising an Ordnance Survey map extract, photographs and 3D scale models of the proposed wind turbines.
Local anti-wind farm campaigners have pointed out rather forcefullly that the the photomontage and the Google Earth file do not show the propsed turbines to scale. Discuss the resources or teaching activities here
google earth view
ge iconDownload the Google Earth file

Thanks to SketchUp for providing the 3D model

Learning activities:

Students could use the information on this page to think about the validity of this site for a wind farm:
• Open the Batsworthy Cross folder after loading the Google Earth file and examine the site.
• The dimensions of the site, and the distance to the nearest dwellings can be calculated using the measuring tools in Google Earth.
• Get a better feel for the topography on the Terrain layer and exaggerating the height in Google Earth / Preferences / Elevation Exaggeration and changing the default setting from 1 to 2. Is the site likely to receive enough wind?
• The opacity of the Ordnance Survey map can be altered after selecting it and adjusting the slider widget. Students could suggest a suitable grid reference for a visitor centre. How accessible is the location? Would drivers on the A361 be distracted by the turbines?
• Click on the photographs for a larger copy of the image. The photographs should help students to be able to visualize the scenery. Should this view be compromised with the introduction of wind turbines?
• Consider getting in touch with pro and anti campaigners using the links below.


Map of site from Multimap

Flickr photoset. Note that you can fly directly to the location if you already have Google Earth installed. Click the Fly To link under the pictures. You will need to download the Google Earth file before you see the 3D models and the OS map.

npower web site

Local community:
Rackenford local community discussion

Pro- view
Yes2Wind pro-campaign site
dotjay pro- view from local blogger
Fairy Jo pro- view from local blogger
British Wind Energy Association

Anti -view
Two Moors Campaign
Renewable Energy Foundation
Country Guardian
National Wind Watch

Coming next:

Part two of this article suggests a learning activity based on Google Earth, incorporating several ideas from this page.