I would like to comment on some points in the letter “Windfarm Subsidies” in last week’s edition of your paper. Firstly, and to give balance, as well as being acclaimed in some quarters the “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change” has also been variously described as biased, selective, unbalanced, scientifically flawed, a vehicle for speculative alarmism, and not a basis for informed and responsible policies. To consider spending annually a sum equal the annual Defence Budget in supporting Stern’s assertions would be bonkers even by this government’s standards. It would also be fair to say that Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” has been well and truly gored and to use it as an educational tool for children without the balance other expert opinion gives is wrong. Thousands of learned professionals have shredded the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change and so on. They aren’t all right and can’t all be wrong.
I assume the reference to EnergieKontor completing its study at the Ceres site and publishing its findings is a reference to the wind speeds being recorded by the 50 metre met mast erected at Gathercauld some time ago on which the site Capacity Factor could be based. They will not be published. Wind farm developers are unwilling to disclose the results of such a study to local authorities or third parties on the basis that the results are commercially sensitive. This is in effect a smokescreen and allows applicants to knowingly bring forward just the sort of sites that fall below the 30% Government bench mark. The implication that all wind farms in Scotland and some in Wales meet or exceed this figure is incorrect as examination of Ofgem, the electricity regulator’s, published statistics will confirm. The subsidy/incentives are such that what would, in any other context, be considered an unviable proposal can still bring substantial rewards to the developer so turbines which will inevitable fail the 30% test are erected to the detriment of landscape and residential amenity regardless.
We repeatedly requested that the developer provided our consultant with the raw data from the small anemometer they had erected in December 2006 to relate wind speed to background noise measurement to allow him to assess it but this was refused. Our expert said in his report that this was the only occasion he had been refused the raw data, it did nothing for an open discussion on the merits of the application and indeed that the developer could have something to hide. Fair comment.
There is a single wind turbine proposed off Northumberland with an installed capacity of more than the combined capacity of the 5 applied for near to Ceres. The Crown Estates recent announcements launching its Round III Offshore programme makes the point that while offshore costs are presently considerably higher than onshore economies of scale and a more realistic balance between supply and demand will dramatically reduce that disparity as more offshore schemes are brought forward.
As far as the Ceres application is concerned there is no national imperative that requires a small wind farm in a poor location which would, at very best, generate 2 megawatts and can give no definitive contribution to carbon dioxide savings to be consented. The damage to landscape, visual and residential amenity and the well expressed planning based objections of individuals, groups and organisations submitted to Fife Council far outweigh any notional, national benefits and there are no local benefits other than rent to the landowner.
Jim Mather the Energy Minister is on record as saying that the Scottish Government do not consider that wind farms should be approved on any site at any price. The Gathercauld site is one that has so many negative effects, acknowledged in the applicant’s Environmental Statement, that it should be kicked in to touch where it belongs.
14 July 2008
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