The prospect of a host of new wind farms springing up around Somerset moved a step closer this week, after Somerset County Council invited a number of developers to bid for the contract.
The Mercury revealed last summer how the council had planned to try to meet green energy targets by allowing wind farms to be built on land within the County Farm Estate.
Sites under preliminary consideration included land on the Quantock Hills, the Sedgemoor battle site, Bridgwater, Woolavington, Chilton Polden and the Huntspill Levels.
The idea came closer to reality this week, when the council selected a number of firms to submit tenders for the developments, with a final decision due later this summer.
Exact sites will then be finalised before building commences, with the aim of producing 11-15% of the county’s electricity from renewable sources as soon as 2010.
Somerset’s renewable energy officer Ian Bright told the Mercury that the council is optimistic the project will proceed and be successful.
He said: “This project has attracted bids of the very highest quality and that reflects the interest generated by the Somerset Wind Energy Initiative.
“We must now move towards the appointment of a company which can deliver to our exacting requirements, with particular reference to the public consultation that is central to the initiative.”
The successful bidder will carry out a comprehensive study of the potential sites, including an extensive public consultation, which will take into account criteria like wind speed, landscape and proximity to houses, roads and the national grid.
Whichever company is successful will then take planning applications to the local authority.
Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the influential UK Sustainable Development Commission, has also backed the initiative.
He said: “This is an excellent scheme and I commend Somerset County Council’s far-sightedness and resolution in bringing it forward.
“I think we all now understand that climate change is for real and will affect all of us, with increasingly serious impacts over time.
“Renewable energy has a critical role to play in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and wind power is a cost-effective, tried and tested element in the renewables portfolio.
“People in Somerset should be delighted.”
By Simon Angear
6 April 2007
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