A Westcountry MP has criticised a “Klondike-type gold-rush” among green energy developers after it emerged wind farms are being subsidised by an eye-watering £1.2 billion a year.
The Government has revealed onshore wind turbines in the countryside receive £557 million each year from energy bill payers, and offshore farms off the coast get £699 million.
And a typical 10-turbine land-based wind farm could pocket firms £2 million a year from hard-pressed households.
The figures have alarmed Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for West Devon and Torridge, who fears big business is clamouring to erect huge turbines across the region while generous hand-outs remain.
Mr Cox, a long-standing campaigner against “these gigantic machines” blighting the countryside, tomorrow leads a House of Commons debate railing against a “stealthy, silent revolution of the most beautiful landscapes”.
The MP and QC will warn ministers that a crackdown on funding and planning has failed to halt the march of the “green” technology, and that the Conservatives put their reputation as the party of the countryside at risk.
Developers receive subsidy through the so-called renewable obligation, which is not paid for from general taxation but by energy companies adding a small amount to all customers’ bills.
The true cost of wind technology to households is likely to be higher still as yearly £506 million subsidises a range of smaller renewable technologies, including 5,000 onshore wind farms, through the feed-in-tariff.
Mr Cox told the Western Morning News: “The reality is there is a Klondike-type gold-rush going on in rural areas where develops are anxious to get their applications through to pick up the vast profits that can be made.
“This is having a disruptive, devastating and distressing effect on dozens of small rural communities that are being torn apart by these huge industrial machines that are just yards away from their home.
“The number of applications seems to be going up rather than receding. What is going on is a stealthy, silent revolution of the most beautiful landscapes in Great Britain.
“If we carry on we will have ruined this most extraordinary inheritance. Commercial turbine developers wield much greater economic muscle than our small district councils, deploying first division lawyers to argue their case at the hearing of the planning appeal by the inspector.
“We in the Conservative Party need to know this will matter at the ballot box. Enough is enough.”
The Klondike goldrush was a 19th century migration of thousands of prospectors to a north western region of Canada.
The full cost of wind technology was revealed in a parliamentary answer by Energy Minister Michael Fallon.
He said 28.2 million renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) were redeemed by wind farm developers in 2012-13, each of which had a nominal value of £44.48.
The amount a developer gets depends on the technology. For example, an onshore wind development receives 0.9 ROCs for every megawatt hour of energy it produces.
It means a typical 10-turbine wind farm – generating 52,000 MWh annually – would receive a subsidy of more than £2 million a year.
Mr Fallon said figures for 2013-14 were not available as developers have until July to redeem their ROCs.
There are 526 onshore wind farms in Britain, with a combined might of around 4,000 turbines, including around 100 in Devon and Cornwall.
Controversial wind farms have divided opinion in the region, including proposals for turbines at Fullabrook, near Ilfracombe, in North Devon, England’s biggest wind farm, and in Davidstow in North Cornwall, which has infuriated locals.
The coalition Government has reduced the subsidy paid to onshore wind developers by 10%, but Tory backbenchers believe ministers should go further.
In July, Communities Minister Eric Pickles issued new guidance to steer planners in a bid to quell a growing backlash against the proliferation of renewable energy schemes, seen as electorally damaging in the Tory rural heartland.
Mr Cox welcomes the steps, but says it has done little to halt the “torrent” of applications.
He said: “In every corner of Torridge and in parts now of West Devon the proliferation of applications is affecting our communities.”
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