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West Cumbrian landowners offered incentives to boost turbine numbers

A wind power developer has revealed that it is offering free energy and a share of profits to West Cumbrian landowners who allow wind turbines.

The incentive, revealed by West Coast Energy, has been made possible by new legislation that aims to place all financial, technical and planning risks on wind farm developers.

Opponents of wind farms are concerned that the incentives will lead to a proliferation of turbines.

Gerald Sewell of Aspatria, spokesman for Group 25, which campaigns against wind farms, said he could understand why landowners might be tempted.

He said: “It is worth anything between £10,000 and £18,000 a year for about 20 years.”

West Coast Energy is trying to recruit landowners, including farmers, businesses and community groups, with what it describes as a new opportunity.

People entering into the deal, depending on their electricity use, will be guaranteed free or discounted power and a share of the profit from power sold to the National Grid in return for giving the company the right to build small and medium wind farms or even individual turbines on their properties.

Richard Fearnall, West Coast Energy development manager, said the “Feed In” tariff gave grid suppliers a guaranteed price and was not subject to the usual fluctuations of supply and demand.

He said that West Coast Energy was the first company to promote the new scheme, but others were starting to follow.

He said his company, which is building a wind farm at Flimby, was focused on the west coast, including Cumbria

The company said it had no upper target on the number of turbines, but would consider as many applications as met the criteria and planning restrictions.

Mr Sewell said he appreciated the position of landowners, especially farmers, who needed to look at diversification but he said this specific targeting was bad news for West Cumbria.

He added: “Despite the economic problems of the country we are still going down the route of spending people’s money because that’s where the funding for this new legislation will come from.

“We will pay for it in added electricity bills. It is just another stealth tax.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Jill Perry, of Bulgill, near Maryport, said that wind farm opponents had constantly said they had no objection to people putting up a smaller turbine for their own use.

She claimed that this was the basic aim of the Feed In tariff scheme.

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, National Farmers Union chief renewable energy and climate change adviser, said the tariffs represented an opportunity for farmers and growers to contribute to renewable energy targets and create jobs for the low-carbon economy in rural areas.

Workington MP Tony Cunningham said: “We have too many wind farms in West Cumbria.

“If these are simply small turbines on an individual property then I am not worried, but if it is a way to introduce more wind farms I would be opposed to it.”