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Row over council investment in wind power

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 14, 2012

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Campaigners have accused council bosses of planning to waste £16 million of taxpayers' money building "inefficient" wind turbines.

Next week the cabinet at Cornwall Council will be asked to approve recommendations to unlock funds to build turbines at ten possible sites on council-owned land.

They include land at Barwick Cuby and Trevorva, both near Probus, Truro; Trevascus Gorran, near St Austell; and Bodilly Wendron and South Trenoweth at Breage, both near Helston.

Broadlands, at Jacobstow near Bude, is also on the list, along with North Hellescott, Launceston; Bodwen Helland, Bodmin; Trevease Constantine near Falmouth; and Menerdue Stithians near Redruth.

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Alan Nunn, of the Realistic Energy Forum South West, who lives in St Austell, said Cornwall already had 94 wind turbines. He said any more would scar the landscape and affect tourism.

"This council is guilty of the most inconceivable ignorance. Wind turbines don't work simply because they rely on a decent amount of wind continually," he said.

But Merlin Hyman, chief executive of the green energy group Regen South West, said: "It's very exciting to see Cornwall Council taking the lead in developing wind energy on its own land. This project will make use of Cornwall's natural wind resources and enhance the county's energy security while generating long-term revenue for Cornwall."

According to the report cabinet will consider, an investment of £20 million on ten sites will pay back in around four years on average, yielding a gross income of more than £5 million per year.

The report acknowledges the risk of changing government financial incentives such as the Feed-in-Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive on the project. It states: "These incentives are the subject of review by the Government and are frequently changed, which impacts on the anticipated financial returns."

Mr Nunn added: "This council is obviously chasing the money – the problem is if the Government reduces the incentives then these wind turbines will turn out to be a very expensive mistake to the taxpayer."

According to the report due to go before cabinet on Wednesday, the project could power more than 10,000 homes. If councillors agree, the scheme could be up and running in around 18 months' time.

Danny Mageean, co-founder of Cornwall Protects, said there were already 400 applications for wind turbines going through the planning process.

He said: "The council really needs to stop and think about the number of turbines we've already got in the pipeline before it starts adding its own."

The £16 million has already been provisionally allocated for the development of further renewable energy projects.

At the meeting, councillors hope to persuade the cabinet to spend the money subject to a detailed business case.

Councillor Julian German, cabinet member for localism, sustainability and devolution, has put the recommendations forward.

He said some of the energy generated by the farms would be used on the site, with the rest channelled into the National Grid. Profits generated would then be poured into council frontline services.

Mr German said: "With all the Government cuts we're having to battle, we have to find ways to generate more income to keep our frontline services going for the people of Cornwall."

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