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Huge areas of Yorkshire needed for wind farms

Swathes of Yorkshire about the size of Leeds and Bradford combined will have to be carpeted over with wind farms if the region is to meet strict renewable energy targets, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

About 34sq km (13sq miles) of Yorkshire’s rolling countryside will need to be given up to the giant turbines in order to meet the region’s target of producing 10 per cent of its energy by renewable means by 2010.

At present there are only four wind farms operating in Yorkshire, and only one has been built since 1993 – the seven-turbine scheme at Out Newton, near Hull.

With great public opposition to every wind farm application, few get past the planning permission stage. But all that will have to change if the region is to meet its targets, according to a new report by Yorkshire Futures.

The body charged with compiling intelligence on the region reported the only way Yorkshire can meet its target is if every scheme currently proposed for the area is built – an all but impossible scenario.

That would see the number of wind farms shoot up from the present four to 26, and the number of turbines up from 47 to 218, with most new turbines reaching far higher into the sky than the relatively small developments built in 1992-93.

Responding to the figures last night, one of the region’s most prominent climate change campaigners said now was the time to move away from wind farms and towards more powerful low-carbon schemes that would not cause so much environmental blight.

The 10 per cent target was set by the region itself in a long-term policy document submitted by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Assembly to the Government in late 2005.

It said Yorkshire would have an installed renewable energy capacity of 708 megawatts by 2010 – but the Yorkshire Futures report reveals that with less than three years to go the total stands at 168.6MW – a mere 2.4 per cent of total energy generated in the region.

Of the 708MW total, made out of all forms of low-
carbon generation such as biofuel burning and landfill composting, onshore and offshore wind farms are supposed to contribute 581MW.

But there are no offshore wind farms in the Yorkshire region, and onshore wind farms contribute a negligible 17.2MW – just 2.9 per cent of what needs to be generated from wind.

The report states: “Both on- and offshore wind is significantly below target … even the most optimistic figure is less than 50 per cent of the total target will be installed.

“It is clear that the region is very unlikely to meet its renewable energy target by 2010.”

Experts say the most power that can be harvested from wind farms is 10MW every sq km. This would force much of the Yorkshire countryside to be covered with turbines for targets to be met.

The report suggests that 12.9sq km of North Yorkshire would be carpeted with turbines, along with 10.8sq km of East Yorkshire; 4.8sq km of West Yorkshire and 3.85sq km of South Yorkshire.

In practice, every one of the 26 schemes currently either proposed, consented to or under construction would have to be rushed through the remaining stages and erected as soon as possible to meet targets.

But last night Labour MP for Morley and Rothwell Colin Challen, who will stand down at the next general election to become a worldwide climate change campaigner, said wind farms were not the best solution to Yorkshire’s renewable energy problems.

He said: “These figures do not surprise me.

“Yorkshire has a tremendous renewable energy potential but is far from reaching it and now we have to look across the picture at all the renewable options and not just at wind.

“There’s a lack of drive and energy taking this agenda forward in Yorkshire.

“We have a load of engineering and research skills here which we’re not making the best of in creating jobs and turning renewable energy into profitable industry.

“The Government puts too much faith in the market, which is why there’s this great conversion on wind, which companies can make a lot of profit out of.”

Mr Challen said that he would like to see sewage from the populated areas of West and South Yorkshire put through a process of anaerobic digestion, which would see effluent first turned to methane and then to electricity – a process he said had “enormous potential”.

Even more ambitious, he suggested that a tidal stream be created in the Humber, a series of drums through which water flows that harness energy.

That could both generate vast amounts of electricity and act as flood defences for Hull.

“This has the potential to generate more power than Drax.

“The technology is there and it can be done. Some of it can be in place by 2010 and the tidal stream could be in place within 10 to 15 years giving Yorkshire a perpetual source of green energy,” he said. “This is what people need to be concentrating their minds on now.”

By Tom Smithard
Political Correspondent

Yorkshire Post

16 July 2007