Are windfarms no longer seen as the answer to cutting the island’s carbon emissions?
Tynwald last month voted to commit the island to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
But at this month’s sitting of court, Environment Minister Richard Ronan said the government did not want to promote wind farms for local use.
Replying to a question from Peter Karran (LibVan, Onchan), he said: ‘Government currently has no plans to offer equivalent subsidies to those in the UK for wind farms on or offshore of the Isle of Man.
‘We currently believe that given the MUA’s substantial generation capacity, we would not wish to stimulate any further capacity for local use, unless such new capacity were to financially improve the MUA’s financial situation.’
Mr Ronan said the focus should instead be on cutting energy loss from homes, with ‘space heating’ representing around a third of the existing emissions.
In 2010, Tynwald voted unanimously in favour of a target of generating 15 per cent of the island’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015. At that time it was thought that an onshore wind farm could provide 12 per cent of that target. A 2009 report commissioned by the government’s Energy Policy Working Group said the island was ideally suited to onshore wind farms as it has, on average, the highest wind speed throughout the year compared with the UK, Denmark and Germany.
Expressions of interest were subsequently sought from developers interested in tendering for the design, finance, build and operation of a 20 megawatt wind farm.
Then in May 2013, a Council of Ministers report on the renewable energy target concluded the commitment to have 15 per cent of energy generated from renewable sources by 2015 was unachievable.
Mr Ronan told Tynwald this week: ‘There are discussions under way with a developer regarding a potential off-shore windfarm. However, the electricity generated would be sold directly into the UK and as such would not have an effect on the MUA electricity generation operations or costs.’
He said the existing gas-powered power station at Pulrose is ‘highly efficient and produces comparatively low emissions’.
‘Therefore we believe we should not prioritise electricity generation emissions until the current plant comes to the end of its effective operational life. The replacement facilities would then be expected to be ultra-low emissions,’ he said.
Manx Utilities Authority chairman Alfred Cannan told the Manx Independent: ‘Government has neither ruled in or ruled out onshore wind farms. The MUA is committed to engaging with any firm wanting to establish wind farms but with the clear proviso that any engagement carries with it the potential risk that any proposal for a wind farm is not guaranteed political support.’
In 2013, Mr Cannan led the charge against plans for a wind farm at Jurby, plans that quickly descended into farce.
Developer Prowind UK arranged interviews at the Job Centre, despite the company being told it would need full planning consent – and in any event wind turbines could not be erected at the Jurby airfield site.
The company pulled out and demanded compensation.