Thousands of wind turbines would be built in some of Britain’s best loved countryside under Government plans to be unveiled this week.
Ministers want a six-fold rise in the amount of electricity generated by onshore wind farms by 2020 to meet European targets on green energy.
That would mean an extra 4,000 wind turbines across the UK – the equivalent of a new one every day for 12 years.
Some would tower over parts of the most beautiful countryside.
Last month, the Government announced plans for a further 7,000 turbines off the coast, making the ‘dash for wind’ one of the biggest engineering projects in decades.
Britain already has around 2,000 onshore turbines. Campaigners say building more would blight rural areas and that onshore turbines are less reliable than those at sea.
Although the proposals will meet fierce opposition, changes to the planning laws will make it easier for developers to push them through.
The ‘wind revolution’ will be highlighted in a green energy report to be published this week.
It estimates that Britain will need to spend £100billion to reach the EU target of producing 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
It says the UK will also need a 30-fold increase in offshore wind power as well as grants to encourage windmills and solar panels in homes.
An area the size of Essex would have to be planted with crops to provide fuel for power stations.
The dash for wind will transform upland Britain. Up to half the new turbines are expected to be built in Scotland and almost a quarter in England. Wales will get 18 per cent and Northern Ireland 10 per cent.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘We are highly concerned.
‘Onshore wind turbines have their place and we are not in denial about the need to increase renewable energy. But it may be sacrificing our landscape just to allow people to fly and drive more.’
Meeting the EU target may be impossible. The UK would need a reserve line-up of gas, coal and nuclear power stations on stand-by in case the winds fail. And there is a chronic shortage of engineers able to build wind turbines.
The report also proposes an increase in the use of trees, straw, waste and energy crops to feed power stations.
It says nearly a million tons of timber could be removed from existing woods without causing problems. But huge areas would need to be turned over to fuel crops, putting even more pressure on food supplies and prices.
The renewable energy strategy also calls for grants to help people produce power in the home from wind turbines, solar panels and ground heat pumps, where heat trapped deep in the soil in summer is used to warm homes in the winter.
One in four homes could be fitted with solar panels, letting families generate all the hot water they need in the summer months.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Regulatory Reform said: ‘There is no element of compulsion in this – we are not proposing forcing people to add renewable energy to their homes.
‘But we need to be encouraging it. The UK has a target of 15 per cent and we need some kind of strategy.’
Tory spokesman Peter Ainsworth said: ‘People genuinely want to go green, but Labour’s overbearing centralised approach won’t work and is riddled with contradictions.’
Some engineers say Britain is becoming too dependent on wind and that the country faces a future of repeated power cuts.
A spokesman for the Renewable Energy Foundation said: ‘Wind is a useful prop but it can never replace conventional power stations. I would love to have free power from God but it is an illusion.’ ¦ Six out of ten people are sceptical about whether humans are responsible for climate change, a poll shows.
The survey by Ipsos Mori for The Observer newspaper found that only a minority had confidence in politicians to tackle climate change while a quarter said it was too late to stop it.
Two-thirds dismissed green taxes as stealth taxes.
By David Derbyshire
22 June 2008
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