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UK pushes wind farms amid Britons’ protests  

Credit:  By Julia Werdigier, International Herald Tribune / October 10, 2010 www.boston.com ~~

LONDON – Reg Thompson, a retired computer manager, loves the view from his rear bedroom window over the beech trees and across the lush green fields of Norfolk in the east of England. But if E.ON, a German power company, has its way, that view would soon include five wind turbines about 15 times the height of his house.

The view is not the only thing that worries Thompson, 62. In April, he dressed up in a bird’s costume with pink Wellington boots to protest the turbines and their danger to the rare pink-footed goose the region is famous for. There are 250,000 of them left, and Thompson fears that wind turbines could slash that number.

“We were blessed with these rare animals, and the danger is they would either get chopped up by the turbine blades or would be driven off their feeding ground,’’ Thompson said.

The local council is due to decide on E.ON’s planning application later this year.

Despite growing opposition from citizens, nature conservation trusts, and local lawmakers, the government continues to push for more wind farms across the country.

Time is ticking toward a deadline in 2020 set by the European Union by which Britain would have to increase the amount of power it generates from renewable sources to 15 percent, from 3 percent now.

Britain is among Europe’s laggards in expanding the renewable share of its energy mix, ranking in the bottom three of the European Union league table just above Luxembourg and Malta.

Many industry experts question whether the government can meet the target within a decade, especially when money is tight.

The coalition government was expected to announce drastic cuts in public spending recently as part of a plan to reduce a record public deficit.

And even though Prime Minister David Cameron had said renewable energy would remain one of his priorities, it is not clear how much he will be able to spend on such projects as the government cuts social benefits.

In a giant leap toward meeting the European Union target, Britain recently opened the world’s largest offshore wind turbine farm in the North Sea off Thanet, at the southeast tip of England.

Operated by Vattenfall, a Swedish energy company, it has 100 turbines spreading over 13.5 square miles, with a capacity to power more than 200,000 homes.

Vattenfall’s turbines raised Britain’s wind-power-generating capacity to five gigawatts, enough to power every home in Scotland, the government said. Chris Huhne, Britain’s energy secretary, said the country was “in a unique position to become a world leader in this industry.’’

“We are an island nation, and I firmly believe we should be harnessing our wind, wave, and tidal resources to the maximum,’’ Huhne said.

Indeed, despite the renewable sector’s lowly ranking in percentage terms, Britain now generates more energy from offshore wind turbines than any other European country, according to the government.

With a height of 377 feet, or 115 meters, Vattenfall’s turbines are visible from the coast in Kent. Unlike onshore wind farms, however, they have attracted few objections from local villagers. As a result, the government has recently started to focus more on offshore than onshore wind farms, even though they tend to be more expensive to build.

Source:  By Julia Werdigier, International Herald Tribune / October 10, 2010 www.boston.com

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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