Thomas Dolby – surely you remember “She Blinded Me with Silence” – is making the rounds these days, promoting “A Map of the Floating City,” his first new album in nearly two decades. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a clean energy angle to the story. Actually, two of them.
First, Dolby’s recording studio is powered by renewables. What a setup it is: He’s refurbished a 1930s ship’s lifeboat – dubbed Nutmeg of Consolation – outfitted it with two solar panels of unknown origin and an Air-X Marine 400W wind turbine, and set it up in the garden of his beach house in England.
“When it gets dark, I’ve got plenty of power and I can light up the Nutmeg like a beacon, so I go in there until the early hours of the morning and work on new songs,” Dolby explained at a TED ideas conference last year (check out the video at the end of this story). Plus, Dolby said, “When the polar ice caps melt, my recording studio will rise up like an arc and I’ll float off into the drowned world like a character from a J.G. Ballard novel.”
But that’s not the whole of Thomas Dolby’s relationship with renewable energy. It turns out that Dolby’s home – the very studio where he records his music, in fact – looks out toward one of the world’s largest offshore wind power plants now under construction. Dolby has referred to the wind farm in several interviews and wrote about it on his blog. And although he’s never named the project, by the fact that he lives on the Suffolk coast and based on his description of the installation’s scope, it’s clear he’s referring to the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm. The RWE Innogy project is already producing some power, and upon completion it will boast 140 turbines and a capacity of 504 megawatts – enough to power more than a half-million homes.
Now, famous people and offshore wind don’t always get along well. The Kennedy family has opposed the Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound. And Donald Trump is fighting a European Union-backed joint venture’s plans to put an 11-turbine testing ground a few kilometers off the northeast coast of Scotland, where Trump is building yet another golf resort.
Thomas Dolby – future-focused, iconoclastic and tech-savvy – has a different view. The wind turbines of Gabbard aren’t always visible, but Dolby loves it when they emerge from the mists far off on the horizon (that’s a close-up view of one being installed, above).
“I love that they’re out there. And that I can only see them when atmospheric conditions are just right,” Dolby wrote on his blog. “I even love that people all over the world are dissing wind farms, saying they are not efficient, slaughter wildlife, and eventually smash themselves to pieces. Those people are just showing their ignorance and lack of imagination.”
To Dolby, the wind farm is a sign of hope: “We’re living on a planet that has perpetual sunshine from the massive star we’re orbitting. We have daily tides that the moon will never stop driving. Winds generated from weather systems, from temperature differentials, and even from the spinning of the Earth at the Equator where it spins fastest. We’re on a planet with a molten core. We have clueless politicians yes, but we also have brilliant scientists who will think up unheard-of ways to bend this natural energy to serve us, without depleting our resources; and wonderful artists, musicians and poets, who will dream big, imagining a beautiful future for our children, despite all the evidence that says they’re doomed.”