A Devon council has admitted it is powerless to stop more new wind farms being approved despite official figures which suggest there are more than enough schemes in the pipeline to meet targets.
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, has disclosed in a letter that the UK is on course for a total of more than 15 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind farms compared with the total of 11-13GW he says is needed by 2020 to meet EU renewable energy targets.
Critics of the lavish subsidy system driving the industry say analysis of the figures clearly shows that a further 6.4GW of yet-to-be-approved capacity would not be needed.
The Renewable Energy Foundation, which uncovered the letter, says the Government now needs to cool down the onshore wind sector with a statement to this effect.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) calculates are more than 317 “significant” wind turbines in Devon alone – including 226 permitted or operational, 68 still currently in planning or at appeal and dozens more in scoping or screening.
Dr Phillip Bratby, a spokesman for the group, said Torridge district had “borne the brunt” of the technology’s rapid growth with 118 turbines and accused the council of being “hell bent” on destroying the countryside.
“Quite clearly there is no need for any more wind turbines to be permitted,” he added.
“We have been pointing this out to the local planning authorities since the news first surfaced in May 2014.”
Torridge council said 90% of its refusals had been overturned at costly appeals.
Council leader Phil Collins said: “While we might wish to pursue a position of greater resistance, the current Energy Bill supports wind energy and there must be good reason to refuse any application – unfortunately public opinion or indeed member opinion is in itself not sufficient.
“However if the Government are suggesting that a change in policy might be forthcoming then we would certainly support a more measured approach.”
According to the industry body Regen South West, around 650 MW of onshore wind would need to be installed in the region to “meet our 2020 target” – more than tripling the current installed capacity of 178MW.
Its recent annual report said that based on current trends and known sites, only around 30MW a year would be deployed making 350MW by the end of the decade, just over half the target.
The Energy Department said it had “a legally binding target” to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.
A spokesman for Renewable UK, the wind industry body, said: “The Government’s target of 11-13GW assumes that we’ll successfully decarbonise not only electricity, but also heat and transport fuel.
“If heat and transport haven’t made sufficient progress, we’ll need more onshore wind.”
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