Government targets to increase the use of green technology could be missed unless Whitehall stops blocking wind farm plans, it was warned last night.
The WMN has learned the Ministry of Defence, the Environment Agency and Natural England have opposed dozens of turbine proposals in the last three years, including some in the Westcountry, despite repeated ministerial calls for a “massive expansion” of eco-technology.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has held talks with his Cabinet in a bid to overcome the problems.
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) – which heads up the drive to ensure 15 per cent of the UK’s energy comes from renewables by 2020 – has also been working hard on finding ways around the objections.
Military fears over the impact of the turbines creating blackspots on radar has seen more than 40 proposals blocked, while agencies of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have used the threat of flooding and the impact on wildlife to put forward objections to both onshore and offshore wind farms.
But the British Wind Energy Association insisted Government departments had to work harder to overcome the objections to pursue the higher goal of cutting carbon emissions.
Charles Anglin, BWEA director of communications, told the WMN: “If the UK is going to meet its tough new targets for renewable energy and tackle climate change, then the Government agencies like the Ministry of Defence and the Environment Agency have to play their part.
“That means working with the wind industry to find constructive solutions in order to build wind farms, not blocking them at every turn.”
Earlier this year, it was reported the MoD had opposed four proposals for wind farms after it was found they interfered with its radar.
A top MoD official warned of the “alarming” effects turbines could have on the ability to spot planes flying into British airspace.
However, it has now emerged that the MoD has objected to 54 pre-planning applications for wind turbines on the grounds of interference with defence equipment – including one last year in Restormel – amid concerns about the impact on ATC radar.
Defence minister Derek Twigg insisted that the MoD did its best to work with developers to address problems as soon as they arose. “The MoD fully supports the Government’s renewable energy targets and will continue to work with other Government departments and key stakeholders to address strategic wind energy issues and our processes for considering wind farm proposals,” he said.
Meanwhile, junior environment minister Phil Woolas revealed the scale of his department’s involvement in blocking wind farm plans.
In the last three years, Natural England and its founding bodies have objected to three onshore wind farms in three different parts of the country and seven offshore wind farm proposals.
And the Environment Agency has blocked four plans, including one in North Cornwall on land at Crimp, near Morwenstow.
In February, Mr Brown revealed he was meeting with colleagues to work on the issue. “It is important to recognise that offshore wind will be a very important part of the development of renewable energy for the future,” he said.
“We will have to invest in it in the future, but we will also have to deal with the military and security problems that will arise as a result. We are currently discussing these matters in order to reach a sensible conclusion.”
In the Westcountry, there are currently eight operating wind farms, generating enough electricity for 25,000 homes.
The largest site is at Cold Northcott in North Cornwall, where there are 22 turbines. One is under construction at Shooters Bottom Farm in Somerset and there are another six projects with 45 turbines that have had the go-ahead.
Ten more wind turbine projects are in the planning process which could see 44 more turbines erected.
Energy giant E.on yesterday unveiled plans to build one of the biggest wind farms in the UK, saying it wanted a swift resolution to an objection from the MoD.
The company submitted an application to build the wind farm eight kilometres off the East Yorkshire coast and said that the so-called Humber Gateway site would generate enough electricity to power almost 200,000 homes.
Chief executive Dr Paul Golby said: “The next generation of large-scale offshore wind farms like Humber Gateway have a vital role to play in the UK’s future energy mix.
“This scheme will displace the emission of hundreds of the thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.”
7 April 2008
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