Energy Companies have applied to build nearly 3,000 wind turbines over the next five years, creating fears for hundreds of acres of rural landscapes.
Backed by large subsidies to exploit wind energy, companies have put in planning applications for 208 new wind farms, according to figures given The Sunday Telegraph.
The plans would see 2,914 new turbines, many more than 400 feet high, installed by 2013. There are currently 1,893 turbines around Britain.
Countryside campaigners are concerned at the numbers of applications and have promised to fight any plans that threaten rural sites. But environmental campaigners welcome the potential increase in renewable energy.
The figures come days after the Government approved two wind farms in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in the face of stiff local opposition.
Britain now has 159 wind farms on land and seven offshore, generating a combined 2,406 megawatts – 1.5 per cent of the country’s electricity supply.
But the number of wind farms is expected to increase rapidly for Britain to meet its European Union target of generating 15per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
However, the prospect of thousands of turbines dominating the skyline alarms many conservationists and rural residents.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has expressed its disquiet over the large number of planning applications for wind farms. Ben Stafford, its head of campaigns, said: “We will support new turbines and wind farms only where they don’t have an impact on the landscape. We recognise the urgent need to combat climate change, but it should not be done at the expense of the very landscapes we are seeking to protect from that change.”
However, Friends of the Earth said “Climate change is the biggest environmental threat our planet faces, but there are solutions to tackle this threat and renewable wind energy is one.”
Increasing numbers of wind farm applications are winning planning approval. In 2006, 36 schemes were passed; last year it was 54. In the first 10 weeks of this year, 11 plans have been approved.
A draft document by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), which represents the wind farm industry, said the rising number of planning approvals signalled “a greater awareness of the country’s renewable commitments at the local level as well as an emerging environmental consensus among political parties”.
Maria McCaffery, chief executive of the BWEA, said the government needed to make it easier for wind farms to gain planning approval if Britain was to hit its EU target. She said: “Britain could be a world leader in renewable energy if we have the will to make this vision a reality.”
Power companies enjoy large subsidies as an incentive to develop wind farms. Under the renewable obligation scheme British consumers pay £1billion a year in their fuel bills towards renewable energy, a figure due to rise to £3billion by 2020.
Conservationists are currently embroiled in a battle against plans by Glyndebourne Opera to erect a 230ft turbine at its grounds in the South Downs National Park. Gus Christie, director of the opera house, told a public inquiry last week that the 850kW turbine could generate the equivalent of the opera house’s entire annual electricity needs, cutting emissions by nearly 70 per cent.
But Natural England, the Government’s conservation advisers, the The South Downs Society, the Council for National Parks and the Ramblers’ Association all say the turbine would ruin the beauty of a unique corner of English countryside.
NPOWER PLANS ‘WILL OVERPOWER’ VILLAGES
Villagers have begun to gaze apprehensively across the fields that surround their homes in Graveley, Toseland, Great Paxton and Offord Cluny.
The land could soon be the site of eight wind turbines each 416ft tall.
The energy supplier Npower plans to build the wind farm on an abandoned airfield in Cambridgeshire’s Ouse Valley as part of its drive towards renewable sources of energy.
But local people fear that the turbines, each twice the height of Ely Cathedral, will blight their homes.
Bev Gray, of the Cotton Farm Action Group, said “The wind farm will overpower the area and be seen by thousands of people up to three miles away.”
Npower said: “A wind farm at Cotton Farm could meet the average annual needs of between 6,900 and 10,000 homes each year. Any visual impact must be in context with the widespread damage climate change could have in Cambridgeshire and the rest of the UK.”
Note: the reporter wrongly wrote “Bev Gray, of the Cotton Farm Action Group, said “The wind farm will overpower the area and be seen by thousands of people up to three miles away.”” The action group website http://www.stopthewindfarm.org.uk/ states “They would be visible up to 30km away.”
Sunday Telegraph 9 March 2008
[Transcription as provided to National Wind Watch]
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