The National Trust is now “deeply sceptical” of wind power, its chairman said as he launched an outspoken attack on the “public menace” of turbines destroying the countryside.
For years the conservation charity has been a supporter of renewable energy, including wind, to reduce carbon emissions and help fight global warming.
But in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Sir Simon Jenkins warned that wind was the “least efficient” form of green power, and risked blighting the British landscape.
He said “not a week goes by” without the charity having to fight plans for wind farms that threaten the more than 700 miles of coastline, 28,500 acres of countryside and more than 500 properties owned by the Trust.
“Broadly speaking the National Trust is deeply sceptical of this form of renewable energy,” he said.
At the moment the Trust is fighting against at least half a dozen plans to build wind farms or turbines that could damage the view from a stately home or stretch of countryside, including a massive offshore farm in the Bristol Channel and plans by the Duke of Gloucester to install a wind farm on his property.
Louise Mensch, the Tory MP and author, is backing the fight against turbines near Lyveden New Bield, Northants which she fears could “destroy one of the finest examples of Elizabethan gardens in England”
In the past the Trust, that now has four million members, fought plans for one of Europe’s largest wind farms in mid Wales and the National Trust for Scotland has spoken out against turbines marching over the hills.
The official position is to support renewable energy, including wind, although only in places where the turbine will produce the maximum amount of energy and “with regard to the full range of environmental considerations”.
The landowner already has 140 renewable energy projects installed on castles and farmland around the country, including a few small individual turbines.
The Trust’s climate change target to cut energy use by 50 per cent by 2020 will go beyond national targets and could save more than 14,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 4,500 cars off the road.
But Sir Simon said most of the renewables will be hydroelectric plants, especially in Wales, as the Trust has access to many miles or rivers and properties that were once water mills. An Archimedes screw is being installed at Morden Hall Park, London similar to the hydroelectric plant installed by the Queen in Windsor Castle.
Also biomass – the burning of plant matter – will cut oil use to virtually zero as the Trust has acres of woodland that needs to be managed anyway. Woodchip boilers have been installed in draughty castles around the country and some even have solar panels on the roof.
“We are doing masses of renewables but wind is probably the least efficient and wrecks the countryside and the National Trust is about preserving the countryside,” said Sir Simon, a former national newspaper editor.
His view is a blow to the Government who have already installed more than 3,500 turbines and are planning to complete 800 this year alone.
The Government can ill-afford another clash with the Trust – which has more members than all the major political parties combined – following its prominent role in the widespread revolt against the coalition’s unpopular planning reform proposals.
Ed Davey, the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has come out strongly in support of wind, opening the world’s biggest offshore wind farm off Cumbria last week.
The Lib Dem minister said wind power will ensure energy security as fossil fuels run out, cut carbon emissions and provide jobs.
RenewableUK, the main lobby group for the wind industry, think by 2020 there could be as many as 10,000 turbines onshore and 4,300 offshore.
However campaigners argue that wind turbines ruin the landscape and are less efficient than other forms of electricity because more back up is required for when the wind is not blowing.
This weekend The Telegraph revealed the full extent of lobbying by Britain’s wind industry.
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