Former Environment Minister Sammy Wilson has blasted “the march of the metal triffids”, claiming the increase in wind turbines in Northern Ireland is nothing short of a scandal.
His remarks came after the Belfast Telegraph revealed this week that a staggering 2,428 wind power projects have been granted planning permission in the last 13 years and a further 849 renewable energy applications are awaiting a decision.
Wind power critics claimed that granting planning permission for wind turbines was no more than a rubber-stamping exercise after it emerged that 89% of wind turbine planning applications in 2012-13 were approved. In Co Fermanagh 106 out of 108 wind turbine applications were given the green light.
Mr Wilson welcomed the publication of a map by this paper showing how many single turbines had been applied for and how many had been granted planning permission.
He said the published information masked the true extent of the damage as many of the projects approved represented multiple turbines.
“Indeed, only last week I visited an event in my own constituency for another 10 turbine wind farm proposal which would sit along side a five-turbine wind farm,” he said.
“The march of these metal triffids across our country is nothing short of a scandal, especially since it is officially sanctioned.
“There are some who say that we have to put up with it because it will give cheap energy. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the wind may be free, the capital and running costs of these machines mean that we pay up to three-and-a-half times more than we would for energy produced from coal or gas, both of which are plentiful and falling in price.”
Mr Wilson said the Government had just published the strike price for wind energy which highlights the extent to which the wind industry requires subsidy from consumers.
“That is the reason why there is no obligation to purchase this energy, because if it were left to the market no electricity distributor would purchase it because of its price,” he said.
“As for the impact this environmental rape will have on climate change, it is a startling reality that even if we were to stop burning all fossil fuels in the UK tomorrow the carbon saved would be produced by China in one week.
“The real debate that we need to have is why we put up with this policy which hurts the environment, makes our industry uncompetitive and forces tens of thousands of households into fuel poverty.”
Tyrone-based Windwatch spokesman Owen McMullan points out that over £140m has been paid out in subsidies to the renewable sector here in the last three years. “We were led to believe this would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but nobody in Northern Ireland is getting cheaper electricity. This is all a con job,” he said.
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