Oilman who saw light and turned to wind

STEPHEN PULLINGER For some they are a nightmarish vision that scar the rural landscape. But Andy Hilton sees wind turbines rather differently, as “elegant bits of machinery”, and is not afraid to state his view that every village should have one.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

For some they are a nightmarish vision that scar the rural landscape.

But Andy Hilton sees wind turbines rather differently, as “elegant bits of machinery”, and is not afraid to state his view that every village should have one.

Proud to have been project manager overseeing the construction of Britain's two largest offshore windfarms to date - Scroby Sands, off Yarmouth, and Barrow windfarm, off the north-west coast - Mr Hilton, 48, is turning his attentions onshore.

Having only launched his own company, Windpower Renewables, a few months ago, he already has plans for turbines in his own village, Catfield, near Yarmouth, the Meridian Business Park on the edge of Norwich, the Bacton gas terminal site, near North Walsham, and at Wyverstone, in Suffolk.

A further three projects have already reached the drawing board stage.

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Subject to planning permission, he aims to have funding in place to complete his first £2.5m single turbine projects, at Catfield and Norwich, within two years.

The planned Bacton turbine would be a larger, more powerful one, providing energy for surrounding villages. The Suffolk scheme is for three turbines.

The first step to his green revolution started this weekend with public meetings in the village halls of Catfield and Postwick, which would be the closest community to a turbine on the business park.

As Mr Hilton prepared for his presentation at the Postwick Environmental Day on Saturday, he confessed he had faced a complete spectrum of opinion at Catfield the night before - from retired architect Mike Crowther, who views the prospect of a 130m turbine as “industrial desecration of a rural landscape on a gigantic scale” to families with a “real grasp of the energy issues facing Britain”.

He said: “It is very black and white. You will never change the opinion of people who hate turbines. However, I had a lot of positive support from the 120 people who turned up at Catfield and I also have a pile of supportive emails.”

Mr Hilton was a high-flying executive in the oil and gas industry, as construction manager with Total, overseeing the building and installation of oil and gas platforms in the Middle East.

However, he could not reconcile the environmental damage caused by flaring off oil when new reservoirs were drilled under the sea. “The final straw was seeing a pod of dolphins swim past and all come back dead,” he said.

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