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Company censured for unproven claims in leaflet about controversial wind farm  

Information given to public by a company that wants to site a windfarm in Muirshiel Regional Park broke ASA code

Britain’s first commercial renewable energy development using wind and hydrogen power has been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making unsubstantiated claims in its literature.

Local campaigners against the innovative £60million scheme in Muirshiel Regional Park, in North Ayrshire, reported the company to the advertising watchdog after seeing a leaflet distributed to households last year.

Jenny Alexander, the investigations executive for the ASA, said Wind Hydrogen Ltd’s brochure breached the advertising code on three out of four points.

The company said yesterday that it would appeal, claiming that the brochure, on a complex issue, was produced in good faith and was not intended to mislead.

The proposed development near Kilbirnie is at the cutting edge of renewable energy technology. A wind farm with 24 turbines would be linked via the National Grid to a nearby hydrogen plant at Glengarnock.

The concept of combining wind and hydrogen power, which is being used increasingly in the US, involves energy generated by the wind turbines being used, through a process of electrolysis, to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then stored and can be used to power fuel-cells for hydrogen vehicles, or converted back into electricity and fed into the National Grid on a day when there is no wind and the turbines are not turning.

Wind Hydrogen Ltd, an Australian company, has recently been invited by CBI Scotland to take part in the Scottish government’s energy inquiry.

In its adjudication, the ASA said that the brochure was misleading because it stated that the wind farm and hydrogen plant proposal was already being considered for £10million government funding.

Under a technicality, although registered, the company did not submit an application before the deadline.

The ASA also ruled that Wind Hydrogen Ltd made unsubstantiated claims for the environmental benefits of “electricity balancing” using hydrogen and wrongly claimed that that electricity generated by the wind farm would be directly used at the hydrogen plant, rather than via the National Grid.

One complaint not upheld was about the uniqueness of the scheme. The ASA said another wind farm with a hydrogen plant existed on the Isle of Unst, but it was a much smaller, off-the-grid community project. Therefore Wind Hydrogen could use the term “unique”.

Sybil Simpson, vice-chairman of the local campaign group, Ladymoor Wind Factory Action Group, said: “This shows that an industry, in its determination to build a wind farm in a designated Regional Park, even at the expense of Scotland’s environmental heritage, has wilfully misled the general public.

“Another important point that was recognised by the ASA was that it was not possible to determine where electricity from any single generation source was finally used in the National Grid. Therefore it is impossible to say that households have the option of running their electricity supply from wind energy alone.” Ms Simpson said the campaigners were not against wind farms, but they passionately believed that regional and national parks must be protected from inappropriate industrial development.

In response, Wind Hydrogen Ltd said the ASA had adjudicated in response to a complaint from one householder about a leaflet handed out to thousands of local people.

Steven Radford, managing director of Wind Hydrogen UK, said: “We are pleased that the ASA publicly acknowledge that the Ladymoor Project is unique and new to Scotland. Crucially they recognise that this would be the first commercial-sized balancing facility connected to the National Grid. The ASA also agreed that the project will help contribute to the Government’s renewable energy targets.”

Figures released yesterday by the British Wind Energy Association, indicate that energy produced by windpower will overtake nuclear within five years.

Melanie Reid

Times Online

3 June 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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