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Power revolution could be running short of puff

The march of the wind turbine seems to be slowing. Two major windfarm proposals for the North-east have been knocked back in recent weeks.

And today a leading renewable energy company warned that investors might think twice about pumping money into schemes where development costs can be huge.

The Government wants to increase our use of renewable energy, but recent planning decisions have put preserving the countryside first.

This week Aberdeenshire councillors voted against Perth-based NPower Renewables’ proposal for eight turbines at Clashnarae Hill, three miles west of the village of Lumsden.

They agreed with planners that the scheme would have an adverse impact on the wildlife and character of the area.

It comes just weeks after Government ministers rejected a plan for 37 wind turbines at a forest near Huntly.

Refusal was due to potentially harmful effects on landscape, visual and residential amenity in the Deveron Valley.

A spokesman for Amec, which was behind the plan, said the ruling would make firms think twice about future schemes.

He said: “The Clashindarroch windfarm inquiry result was disappointing and surprising.

“It was disappointing because of the huge amount of effort we had put into it and because we believed it to be a carefully and responsibly designed proposal.

“It was surprising because of the radically different view the reporter took of the proposal to all of the statutory consultees.

“The ministers’ decision to back the reporter’s negative findings – which were contrary to the positive views of the statutory consultees – is unprecedented,” he said.

“Along with other developers in the Scottish market we are considering its ramifications.”

Surveys show that most people support the idea of windfarms.

But at a local level, campaign groups talk of industrialising the landscape and question the green credentials of the windfarm business.

Prof Robert Barker, of the Barthol Chapel Community Association, has raised concerns about turbines proposed near Methlick.

He said: “We do need to have pause for thought and not rush into these things.

“They should be regarded as any other planning application.”

There are more than 200 turbines in the North-east.

The UK Government wants 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010, rising to 20% by 2020.

Ecologist Dr John Etherington told the Evening Express rural land was being “hijacked” as renewable power generating areas for cities and big towns.

But windfarm operators say power is a national resource to be shared across the country.

The Press and Journal

27 September 2007