Grimsby Docks, Sunday morning 7.15am. The smell of fish wafts up from the bay as a middle aged man takes his Staffie for a walk past a load of broken-up, fly-tipped bedroom furniture. The dog takes a wee on a broken coil from the mattress of a discarded double bed. Nice.
It may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but I'm surprisingly excited despite the inauspicous surroundings. Thanks to British Gas, I'm about to visit one of Europe's largest offshore windfarms, situated about 35 miles down the coast in the usually very windy North Sea. Luckily, today the water is as calm as a millpond, so I can sit back and enjoy the journey in the state of the art catamaran decked out with all the latest gadgets - including, cleverly, seats that move to compensate the feeling of motion sickness.
Technicians from British Gas' base in Grimsby take this journey out to the wind farm everyday (except in really terrible weather conditions), but today I'm out here with a film crew shooting extras for Channel 4's eco-series, Three Hungry Boys.
Now in its second series (due to air later this year), the programme sees three hirsute fellas travelling around Devon and Cornwall meeting various communities and getting involved in different eco-causes, powered only by an electric milk float called Daisy. Tim, the leader of The Hungry Boys, is very nice, but he doesn't half look like The Green Wing's sexy doctor played by Julian Rhind-Tutt (I phone my wife, she's very excited and asks for lots of pictures).
While we all like the idea of renewable energy, the truth is that many people complain about the environmental impact of wind turbines on land (not really sure why as they definitely more beautiful than electricity pylons). Putting them at sea therefore seems like a great idea, not only because it lessens their environmental impact, thereby reducing protests from complaining NIMBYs, but also because it makes good use of the North Sea's high winds - and believe me it does get windy here.
There is also, inherently, something a lot more exciting about visiting a wind farm rather than say an oil rig or power station - maybe because it feels like you are looking into the future rather than back at the past. I think Mick Turner, Centrica's Head of Renewables, Operations and Maintenance sums it up best: "We are all learning so fast about renewable energy, it's a bit like being involved in North Sea oil exploration in the 1970s."
Bags of energy
While naysayers constantly talk about wind power's inability to produce enough electricity to meet our needs, the truth is that it is becoming more important. "Realistically wind power is only part of the solution to our energy needs - we do need to look at other sources like nuclear," admits Mick. "But last week when we had quite a lot of wind it was enough to provide 10 per cent of our total electricity."
Comprising 54 wind turbines (don't let Mick hearing you call them 'windmills'), the Lynn and Inner Dowsing Wind Farm is one of the biggest in Europe, producing 800 Mega Watts of electricity - enough to power 130,000 homes. They are also seriously impressive. Pulling up to the wind farm, you are quite simply overwhelmed by their size and unbelievable grace - like the modern day equivalent of the Pyramids, as Tim from The Hungry Boys succinctly puts it .
Measuring the size of a football pitch in diameter, the blades are near silent despite moving around at speeds of up to 180Km/h. And to be honest, how can anyone complain about their presence this far out to sea (except perhaps the engineers who have to come out here when it's blowing a gale).
For British Gas customers, there's also the opportunity to assuage your environmental guilt at using fossil fuels by signing up to to its Energyshare tariff. Basically under this tariff all the energy that you use is matched by electricity produced by British renewable sources - at the moment 100 per cent comes from the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farm.
Anyone signing up to the tariff before February 2011 will have the opportunity to win Solar panels worth £9,999 as well as receiving a free gift to help save on bills and carbon emissions (take your pick from an electricity monitor, a standby saver, water widget and eco-kettle and a set of radiator panels).
Seems like a no-brainer to me, although rather shockingly only 2 per cent of us have so far signed up to a 'green tariff' so there's a long way to go before we all get our electricity from wind farms like this one off the coast of Lincolnshire.
You can see the Three Hungry Boys in action on Channel 4's website.
TOMORROW WE TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE SIGNED UP TO THE ENERGYSHARE FUND - A GREEN INITIATIVE BETWEEN FRIENDS OF THE EARTH, RIVER COTTAGE AND BRITISH GAS