Plans to build England’s biggest wind farm near Newton Aycliffe in County Durham have been revealed. Joe Willis examines the North-East’s popularity with renewable energy developers.
THE region produces more energy from wind than anywhere else in the country.
In only ten years, more than 25 wind farms have been erected or approved in the North- East and North Yorkshire.
The region now produces about 12 per cent of the electricity it uses from wind power – double the percentage of any other region in England.
Wind turbines have often been erected despite strong objections from local communities.
Campaigners claim too many turbines are too tall and too close to homes.
A call for a buffer zone – already in force in Scotland – preventing turbines being built within 2km of North- East homes has been made.
But why have so many wind farms been built in the region?
According to retired analyst Bill Short, it is a myth that the North-East has a large number of wind farms because it is particularly windy – or has the right type of wind.
He said the West is known to be windier, with the Pennines making this region’s wind more turbulent – therefore lowering power generation.
Mr Short, who has studied the growth of wind farms in the North-East, says figures show that farms in this region are the least efficient in the country.
He believes the North-East has been preyed upon by developers, spurred on by the region’s high targets for renewable energy – which are eight times those for the South- East.
“Unfortunately, our planners have been completely overwhelmed,” he said.
The analyst also believes it is wrong to accuse farmers of cashing in by allowing wind farms to be built on their land.
He said it was often rich landowners who offered their land for a wind farm, with their tenant farmers given little or no choice.
Mr Short said it was also incorrect to suggest that the region had good connectivity to the national grid, with the North-East capacity taken up by electricity generated in Scotland.
Mr Short said one of the main reasons the region had so many wind farms was its perception as a soft touch for controversial planning schemes.
“If anyone had tried to put the wind farms down South that they have in the North- East, they would have faced massive legal challenges,” he said.
“They would have paid for barristers to fight these applications.
But we have quite deprived areas in this region, particularly in the rural areas, and people can’t afford to.”
It remains to be seen if E.on will submit a planning application for between 25 and 45 turbines at the Isles Wind Farm, near Newton Ayclife – and if the local communities decide to fight the scheme.
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