A record number of wind farm projects were refused planning permission in Britain last year, according to new figures seen by The Observer. The average amount of time taken to decide whether to approve a project – 24 months – is also at a record high. The figures will be published by the British Wind Energy Association later this month.
They point to a growing paralysis within the UK’s embryonic wind farm industry. Developers report that the Ministry of Defence, which complains that turbines interfere with its radar, has started blocking projects more actively. They also worry that the new planning bill will not help ease the logjam.
These difficulties, as well as soaring costs, seem to be putting developers off submitting new applications. Applications to build wind farms providing 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity – enough to power a city the size of Birmingham when the wind blows – were made last year. But this is less than half the size of proposals in 2006, and almost a third of what was put forward in the previous two years.
Also, plans for Britain’s biggest onshore wind project – developed by British Energy and Amec – will suffer a blow this week with the publication of a report criticising the validity of the project’s environmental impact assessment study.
Claims by British Energy and Amec that 181 turbines built on protected peatland on the island of Lewis off the Scottish west coast are environmentally safe assume a best-case scenario ‘rather than the reality’, according to academics at the University of Greenwich.
But Dave Hodkinson, director of joint-venture Lewis Wind Power, insisted that the independent ornithological consultancies it commissioned had found no objections to the 651mw project.
Tim Webb and Nick Mathiason
24 February 2008
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