One of the country’s leading authorities on renewable energy called yesterday for countryside wind farms to be abandoned as a viable power source for Northumberland.
John Constable, director of policy and research at the Renewable Energy Foundation, said there were a range of better options for the county than the 71 turbines planned around Alnwick and Berwick.
Speaking ahead of a visit to Berwick’s Border Green Festival this weekend, where he will take part in a public debate on wind power, Dr Constable said the “phenomenal” demand to build turbines in the area was a product of the Government’s “flawed” subsidy system.
Dr Constable also said that serious doubts remained over whether the power generated by the turbines – those proposed would run at just 25% capacity – justified the public money given to energy firms.
Ahead of the debate at the festival on Sunday, he said: “We have to remember, renewable energy is part of an overall sustainable policy. If you have an economy which has been built around sustainable tourism, you need to think very carefully about industrial generation in that area, because it may damage that sustainable policy.
“I would sympathise very much with people who build up a sustainable tourism business then find out they’re about to be damaged by things that don’t have as much benefit as their proponents claim.”
Dr Constable said offshore wind farms, tidal power and, in particular, biomass fuels, would be more suitable for Northumberland.
The Renewable Energy Foundation – which says that it was formed by people opposed to “planning applications for power stations in inappropriate rural areas” – has a history of campaigning against wind farms.
Northumberland is now being targeted by a number of applications for large wind farms, including a bid for a development at Moorsyde, in north Northumberland.
A spokesman for the Moorsyde Action Group, which is fighting plans by Your Energy to build 10 turbines near Berwick, said: “We would ask the North-East Assembly to reconsider where we are and have a look at how wind is performing and whether it’s an appropriate technology for this area.”
Matt Kelly, Your Energy’s project manager for Moorsyde, where it wants to build 10 turbines, said: “There have been three independent landscape assessments done for Moorsyde, all of which have agreed that Moorsyde Wind Farm is in the right location and can be accommodated in the landscape.
“The turbines are designed to operate at 20-30%.
“There is no problem with the wind there.”
Phil Jones, planning manager for the North-East Assembly, said: “The North-East Assembly’s renewable energy strategy, produced in 2005, identified that, in the short and medium term, onshore wind generation is the biggest resource available to North-East England to meet its renewable energy targets.
“As other technology is developed and it becomes more feasible to exploit other sources, then they will form an increasing part of the energy mix in the longer term.”
Dr Constable will appear at the Border Green Festival, at Mill Farm, Tweedmouth, with Peter Worlock, chairman of the Save our Unspoilt Landscape group and pro-wind farm speakers from 2.30pm on Sunday.
by Paul James
6 July 2007
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