The Ministry of Defence last night withdrew its opposition to three wind turbines in Norfolk, offering hope that its U-turn over the suggested threat to national security could open the way for more green power projects.
The MoD had warned that building three 120m turbines at the Lotus test track at Hethel, near Wymondham, would cause “unacceptable interference” to the air defence radar at RAF Trimingham 32 miles away – prompting planners to reject the wind power proposal.
But the EDP has learned that the MoD has withdrawn its opposition to the Lotus turbines after a “detailed re-appraisal” of their likely impact on Britain’s air defences.
The U-turn delighted Lotus and development partner Ecotricity, and was hailed as a sign the MoD may be prepared to revise its opposition to other renewable energy schemes where wind turbines are deemed to be in the “line of sight” of military radar.
The news prompted another green power firm, SLP Energy, to reveal it will now resubmit the plans it withdrew last December for four 125m turbines at Hemsby, near Yar-mouth, in the face of MoD opposition.
SLP spokesman Kerry-Leigh Gauntt said: “The MoD’s decision is good news for everyone in the industry and it is our intention to resubmit the application.”
MoD spokesman Pragati Baddhan said: “The MoD has withdrawn its objection to the Lotus wind farm proposal following a detailed
re-appraisal which found that the effect on radar performance at Trimingham is manageable.
“We are always willing to seek and agree mitigating factors to allow wind farms, and if a mutually accepted solution can be found, then the MoD would withdraw existing objections.”
However, Ms Baddhan said there had been no change in overall policy regarding the issue.
“Each wind farm proposal is considered on a case-by-case basis,” she added. “The MoD is fully supportive of the government’s renewable-energy targets, and objections to wind farms are only raised where such action is considered vital to adequately protect MoD interests.”
She said they were not aware of any other current schemes in the region where the MoD was objecting because the turbines could affect the performance of defence radar.
Lotus is keen to reduce its carbon footprint by generating enough renewable energy to meet all its needs at Hethel – although the development has sparked opposition from people living nearby.
Ecotricity spokesman Madeline Carroll said: “We are happy with the MoD’s decision and will be considering our options.”
And Nigel Marshall, facilities manager at Lotus, added: “We are delighted and we are just going to discuss with Ecotricity what we do now.”
6 March 2008
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