A wind farm protest group yesterday dismissed a Government report claiming onshore wind power has created thousands of jobs and generated millions of pounds for the economy.
Friends of the Pembrokeshire National Park said the boasts about job creation and economic benefits in the report for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) were spurious because the sector gets massive handouts.
The joint study by the Government and the renewables industry of 18 wind farms across the UK, including three in Wales, showed they benefited communities by £84m in 2011, and supported 1,100 local jobs.
But John Ratcliffe, of the Friends of Pembrokeshire National Park, said: “The point about their efficiency is very controversial and depends on how you look at the finances and subsidies. Without subsidies I think the whole thing would not really work at all well.”
Decc’s subsidy for the sector stands at around £1.3bn per year, which has seen a tripling in the level of renewable electricity in the UK from 1.8% in 2002 to 6.6% in 2010.
In total, the research by BiGGAR Economics found onshore wind farms supported 8,600 jobs nationwide and were worth £548m to the UK economy as a whole in 2011.
The three Welsh wind farms that came under the microscope for the report were the Bro Dyfi Community Turbine, in Machynlleth, Castle Pill Farm, in Steynton, Milford Haven, and Ferndale, in the Rhondda Valley.
Bro Dyfi, a community co-operative set up in 2001 to develop renewable energy projects in the Dyfi Valley, is a single turbine generating 0.5MW.
Both Castle Pill, with four turbines generating 3.2MW, and Ferndale, with eight generating 6.4MW, are owned by wind farm development firm Infinergy.
In recent months countryside campaigners have criticised the encroachment of turbines on the landscape and 100 Tory MPs wrote to David Cameron calling for subsidies for the technology to be cut.
But last month the Prime Minister said he believed renewables were “vital” for the future of the UK and were good for business, not just the environment.
The Treasury has been accused of not backing the drive to develop clean energy sources, but yesterday’s report highlights that the technology generates £198m a year in taxes, not including those charged on electricity.
This could rise to £373m for the exchequer by 2020, the research predicts.
Industry body RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffery said the study showed that every megawatt of wind power capacity installed generated almost £700,000, with £100,000 staying in the local community.
The report also looked at future deployment of onshore wind, and found that if it is scaled up under Government plans from current levels of 4.5 gigawatts installed to almost three times as much (13GW) by 2020, it could generate 11,612 direct and supply chain jobs.
But the report found that while the majority of the money generated during the development and operating phases of onshore wind farms stays in the UK, more than half of construction spend goes abroad.
Energy secretary Ed Davey said: “Not only does wind power provide secure low carbon power to homes and businesses, it supports jobs and brings significant investment up and down the country too.
“Our policies of increasing community involvement will also help ensure the right balance between developers and community interests.”
Ms McCaffery said the report showed why more than two thirds (68%) of people in rural areas, where most wind turbines are installed, supported the industry, higher than the 57% in urban areas who back the technology.
“Rather than feeling that wind has been imposed on them, real people across the UK are recognising the benefits of having wind in their backyard, and with the Government’s help we’ll continue to build on the 8,600 people employed across the country because of onshore wind,” she said.
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