Town's skyline to be transformed by wind turbine

THE skyline of one of Ulster's most popular seaside towns is set to be dominated by a giant wind turbine in a landmark green project.

Due to be winched into place in July, the monolithic 180ft high structure will power a new 18 million waste transfer facility in Bangor.

North Down Borough Council have said the scheme will save them more than 100,000 a year in energy and is the equivalent of planting 750,000 trees.

The 1 million turbine will be put up at Balloo Wood, across the road from the waste development in an industrial site on Balloo Drive.

A police escort will be used when the tower, which has blades 29 metres long, is transported into the town.

Mayor of North Down, Stephen Farry, said it would be a constant reminder of the area's environmental commitment.

He added: "The turbine will be a strong visible marker of the borough's green credentials. The council uses energy from renewable sources wherever possible and this is perhaps our most ambitious green project."

But the turbine has locals in a spin with some residents who will be living in its long shadow already branding it a blot on the landscape.

When the News Letter showed locals how it will look, one said: "I'm all for saving the planet, but this is just ugly, and I've heard they make a terrible racket."

However, Green Party Assembly member Brian Wilson insisted cutting-edge technology has been used to reduce noise.

He said: "I've been to plenty of wind farms and there is hardly any noise. That only happened with older turbines."

The North Down councillor also claimed its economic benefits would outweigh any aesthetic impact.

"Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I feel these towers are pleasing to look at. They're no eyesore," he said.

"This turbine will pay for itself in 18 months, so that has to be taken into account."

Community associations in the surrounding Rathgill and Bloomfield areas have also thrown their support behind the structure, which is scheduled to swing into action in September.

The council has pledged that any surplus power will be pumped into leisure facilities for Bangor, including its upcoming Olympic-sized swimming pool.

A long-winded planning application process for the turbine began in December 2005 and permission was not granted until last year.

Since then there has been a flurry of activity, with the concrete base now poured for the tower.

Northern Ireland's Central Energy Efficiency Fund paid for half the machine – being built by Ulster firm Lagan Construction – while the council stumped up the rest.

A similar turbine powers Antrim Area Hospital and there are around 30 wind farms across Northern Ireland, with another 30 in the pipeline.