Renewables industry slams onshore wind report

A controversial report on UK windfarm development by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has come under fire from the renewables industry for being "misguided".

The report, released today (April 30), calls for the Government to clarify where and how many onshore windfarms it expects to see built and develop a clear framework which recognises landscape capacity.

However, while the report recognises the need for measures to be taken to mitigate the effect of climate change – saying that onshore wind will “undoubtedly” play a role that an “appropriate” mix of renewable energy technologies should be deployed.

It also argues that questions remain over how much capacity the UK needs and where farms should be located and believes that many local communities feel that onshore wind applications are unconnected to a wider national renewable strategy.

As a result, it wants the Government to be clearer about the national contribution it wants onshore wind to make.

CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers, said: “There is no easy way to provide the country with the energy we need. CPRE accepts onshore wind in the right places as part of the mix required to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets, but we are seeing more and more giant turbines sited in inappropriate locations.”

However, the renewables industry has hit back at the report, saying that while it welcomes recognition of the importance of wind power in tackling climate change that concerns about UK onshore turbine development are “misplaced”.

Backing up this view are two independent polls, by Ipsos MORI and YouGov retrospectively, which show that the 68% and 60% of the UK public are in favour of wind power and want the UK to make greater use of renewables in energy generation.

It also slams the CPRE for “exaggerating” statistics in the report by suggesting that 12,000 turbines are planned for the UK – when in fact the figure is about 1,826.

Furthermore, speaking last week energy minister Greg Barker disputed claims the UK would be ‘littered’ with turbines, saying it has enough turbines built, being developed or in planning process to “take us through to 2020” and said it was an “irrational fear” the country would covered in windfarms.

Action for Renewables chair Tony Juniper, said: “It is positive that CPRE have recognised the crucial role of wind power in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on imported fossil fuel, but unfortunately they have exaggerated some aspects and clearly misunderstood the overwhelming public support for renewable energy.”

According to RenewableUK director of policy Dr Gordon Edge, climate change is in fact the biggest threat to the UK landscape.

He said: “Onshore wind is the cheapest source of low-carbon power, and restricting its development would jeopardise our firm commitment to offer value for money to the consumer, as well as green energy. It’s clear that only some locations are suitable for wind – but the way to identify those is by assessing each windfarm on its own merits, not the top-down approach the CPRE is proposing.”

Despite this, the CPRE is calling on the Government to enable local planning authorities’ and the planning inspectorate greater scope to protect landscape character when making decisions on development proposals.

It also calls for national obligations for the onshore wind industry to be implemented which would see the sector take legal and financial responsibility for decommissioning onshore wind turbines and restoring the landscape at the end of their life.

Carys Matthews

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