Communities across the West are being offered official cash incentives to allow wind farms to be built in their villages, but campaigners already fighting plans have dismissed the proposal as ‘a bribe’.
The wind energy industry is offering a minimum of £2,000 for each turbine that local residents allow to be built, with the money spent on community projects.
The move was welcomed by the Government yesterday, as ministers are desperate to increase the numbers of turbines built in the West to meet its target of creating 15 per cent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade. It is currently around three per cent.
Renewable UK, the wind power industry body, will today announce the incentives in a bid to halt the decline in new turbines being erected. While 405 were installed in 2009, that fell to just 245 last year. In the Huntspill villages of the Somerset Levels, the incentives could mean an annual community grant of more than £20,000, if four turbines are installed by Stroud-based Ecotricity and French energy giants EDF are allowed to install seven.
“It is pretty much nothing more than a bribe,” said Julie Trott, the spokeswoman for the villagers’ campaign group which is fighting the plans. “Thinking that the community is getting this kind of money wouldn’t make any difference to my opinion of the wind turbines.
“I’d still be against them, although maybe other people who don’t have an opinion might welcome it. The village would get this small amount of money, but the quality of life – the noise and the disturbance – would be ruined for ever and there’s not any figure of money you can put on that, it can’t be quantified,” she added.
Renewable UK will publish guidelines that developers will pay a minimum of £1,000 per megawatt of ‘installed capacity’ for each year of the 20-year life of a wind farm. With the average turbine generating between two and 2.5 megawatts a year, that would mean a wind farm of half a dozen turbines would bring around £14,000 in to the community.
Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, welcomed the industry’s initiative. He said: “Right now, all too often, communities can see the wind farms but not the windfall. Wind is an abundant, clean, home-grown alternative to fossil fuels. It can’t be blown off course by instability abroad, and so it’s vital we use it for our low-carbon, energy security. We’ll all benefit in the long run, and moves to help local people feel more immediate benefits of hosting a wind farm are crucial.”
RenewableUK was unable to say how close to turbines people would have to live to benefit. It said developers would “work with planning authorities and people on the ground to determine what constitutes a community in each instance.”
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