Wind power plans which could net the Church of England more than £50,000 a year in the Westcountry have been criticised as a “desecration” of the countryside.
The Church claims its proposals for six wind turbines on its land in North and West Devon are “good stewardship” which will preserve the environment for future generations.
But residents living close to sites earmarked for the 25m- high (82ft) towers say they are unsightly, unreliable and penalise the poor by lumping the cost of generous Government subsidies on to already-soaring electricity bills.
One affected resident, Richard Hopton, who lives in Chittlehampton, said he was “furious”.
“Nobody in this country thinks it’s a good idea that we burn coal for evermore, but there has to be a balance,” he told the BBC. “These turbines will be a permanent desecration of a very beautiful part of Devon.”
The Diocese of Exeter said it was working with several parish churches to install solar photo-voltaic panels. It hopes to place two small Gaia 11kW turbines at each of three locations at East Anstey, Black Torrington and Chittlehampton, and claims that each site will produce an average carbon saving of 32 tonnes each year.
Keith Bostel, a retired renewable energy manager at National Power in the South West, said that, based on Met Office figures for the area, which lists an average wind speed of five metres per second, each turbine could generate 27,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.
If the entire output were exported to the National Grid the Church could claim 31.2 pence per kWh under the Government’s Feed-in-Tarrif scheme, producing income of £8,580 per turbine or £51,480 per year in total.
Penny Mills, a member of the Torridge Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said she was “quite shocked” by the plans.
Harry Riches, of Black Torrington, said the Church should “abhor any action that adds to the burdens of the poor”.
“It would add credibility to the decision if the diocese bequeathed all income from the turbines to charities concerned with the poor that are independent of Church administration,” he added in a letter to the Telegraph.
The Archdeacon of Barnstaple, David Gunn-Johnson, said: “The Diocese is committed to working to protect God’s creation.
“The production of more renewable energy in Devon will not only reduce our carbon emissions and protect our environment, it will also help safeguard our children’s future.
“By looking at wind energy, we are being responsible stewards of the land God has given us to look after for future generations.”