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Green energy plans hit hitch

As the Government last night appeared to relax its targets on renewable energy, experts in the North-East have pointed to alternatives to wind farms in the countryside.

Wind power is not the only answer to the Government’s renewable energy problem, according to the North-East’s climate change experts.

Despite a warning from energy groups that the UK is unlikely to tackle climate change without more wind farms, scientists from across the region have insisted there are plenty of alternatives.

Their words have come after planners at Berwick Council rejected a 10-turbine application on Tuesday.

And while most of the region’s growing renewable energy sector supports wind turbines, alternatives are being lined up because of the growing objections to the turbines.

Steve Wilson, Director of Wind and Marine at the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland, said the argument for on-shore wind turbines only succeeds because of the Government’s time constraints.

He said: “Are on shore wind turbines the only answer? It all depends on when you set the renewable energy deadline.

“If you want something over the next few years then yes, they are already having an impact. But if you want to extend that deadline and use off-shore technology then you have a much more efficient renewable energy source.

“The next big step, especially in the UK, is off-shore energy development. It’s a different environment that carries more risk, but if we get it right the rewards are greater.”

Many North-East scientists agree that the Government’s target of providing up to 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 has led to wind turbines being viewed as the only option. But efforts to meet a further Government target – reducing CO2 emissions by 60% before 2050 – is already on course in the North-East.

A new power plant is to be set up in Teesside which will use carbon capturing technology to save more CO2 emissions in one year than all the UK’s wind turbines put together and there are outline plans for a second plant to be built in the North-East.

Newcastle University professor of energy Dermot Roddy, a dedicated pro-wind campaigner, said the region could lead the world in developing the off-shore technology.

“Most of the turbines used are on-shore, but the growth area is off shore and we are developing that technology and chasing those jobs. If we try to find some common ground, for example in off-shore wind farms, then we can be Europe’s lead authority on this.

“Another big part of what we are doing is in biomass.

“The biggest source of renewable energy is biofuels. We have the biggest biomass power stations in the UK and are recognised across Europe as a lead authority on this.

“So there are other options, and I say that as a big supporter of wind power.”

Long term planning for the Government’s energy targets places even more emphasis on alternatives to both fossil fuels and wind farms.

And again the research into this is led by the North-East.

Northumbria University energy professor Nicola Pearsall is helping to lead the way on photovoltaics – turning sunlight into electricity.

She said: “There comes a point, in the not too distant future, where you have installed all the wind farms you can, you have given up as much land as possible to biofuel generation without using up too much space for food production, and you reach a peak in availability for renewable energy locations. When that happens you will still have of opportunity for solar energy, and that’s what we have to plan for if we are serious about this.

“By 2030 and onwards solar energy has the potential to be the main energy source. There is no one answer, wind farms are not the only answer and neither, if we’re honest, are photovoltaics. But in terms of local power PV could provide a lot more.”

By Adrian Pearson

The Journal

25 October 2007