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Councils could get a cash incentive to approve wind farm applications

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: October 30, 2010

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Westcountry councils are to be offered cash incentives to approve wind farm planning applications after successful community campaigns sabotaged half of all new projects.

The lack of new large-scale schemes has left the South West with no chance of meeting its renewable energy target for the end of 2010.

Despite being designated the first Low Carbon Economic Area in England, the region has so far achieved just one-third of the 611MW electricity target it set itself.

Ministers are concerned that if the trend continues, the European target to produce 15 per cent of the nation's energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 will also be missed.

Under the plans local authorities will keep tens of thousands of pounds in business rates from schemes which currently go to central Government.

Campaigns adviser and co-ordinator Alan Nunn, of the Realistic Energy Forum South West, said wind farms often failed to deliver on promised performance and described the targets as "impossible".

He said: "They could only be met if you go on building left, right and centre but wind turbine performance does not justify the destruction to the countryside and the effect on people's lives and property prices. Wind farms have been stopped through the common sense of councillors and local people who just don't want the things."

New wind farms are a key part of the push to create enough renewable energy to reduce reliance on coal and gas power production.

But according to a leaked report due to be published next week by the renewable industry body Renewable UK, there has been a 50 per cent drop in planning approvals nationwide in the last 12 months.

Mr Nunn said this chimes with his figures for schemes rejected in Cornwall.

The report says it now takes on average nearly two years from the point of application for wind farms to be approved by local councils and even then up to three-quarters will be unsuccessful.

The coalition Government has said it will maintain or even increase ambitious renewable energy targets.

But it is also set to give a stronger voice to local politicians and allow communities more power to veto unpopular developments.

And with the Planning Inspectorate to lose the power to overturn decisions by local planners – something it has done in a number of cases for wind farms – the number approved could drop even further.

Labour's shadow energy secretary Meg Hillier said the poor success rate in wind farms was disappointing and highlighted the need for certainty about government support for offshore projects.

"We need answers from the Government or we risk losing investment to other countries," she said.

More than 230 local campaign groups against wind farms have already sprung up across the UK, with 17 in Devon and Cornwall alone.

This week almost 100 residents packed into a village hall to hear plans for six 400ft turbines at Bradworthy in Devon. Campaign group Stop Turbine Onshore Proliferation in Torridge will oppose the application next spring.

Cornwall accounts for about one-third of the region's renewable electricity, 75 per cent coming from onshore wind, but there were no new major schemes approved last year.

In 2008 five out of seven new wind farm projects in the South West were given the go-ahead.

Julian German, Cornwall Council's cabinet member for climate change and the environment, said community engagement was "key" to persuading local people.

"If you are a big multinational company coming into areas of natural beauty, you have to give the local community a reason for putting them there," he said.

"Wind is a proven technology which will play an important part in the mix for the next few years – energy security is a real issue when the Government is talking about blackouts."

Merlin Hyman, chief executive of not-for-profit company Regen SW, has said the South West is "not on track" to meet the targets set by the Government for 2020.

In the Regen SW annual survey of the South West for 2010 Mr Hyman said: "We are still seeing few projects of a significantly large scale being built. We are at risk of missing out on the potential of renewable energy to provide secure and sustainable energy as the foundation stone of a prosperous low-carbon economy."

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    max power!, st austell  |  November 02 2010, 12:12AM

    The greens have to compromise by accepting the nuclear option to stop the lights going out, we all have to accept reality sometimes and it will solve their apparent 'CO2' problem if any such thing ever existed. Solar power is what worries me, companies plastering PV panels on everything south facing that doesn't move leaving us to pay the profit for some investment that only generates a laughable ammount of power, it's a bad investment for the power bill payer. I appreciate that we need sustainable power, I also realise that the luxuries us commoners have, such as foreign holidays will be removed by the carbon reduction policies, but the well paid minority will continue to enjoy the luxuries that are removed from us, the majority. We need to wake up to their agenda.

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    Gazz, Truro  |  November 01 2010, 1:12PM

    Wind Turbines is alot of 'con-air! Subsidy costs of wind turbines means a cost that the youth of today will be paying for the next 25 years, Nuclear power is safer and produces more energy. If the green tree huggers get there way and we only have wind farms, then we will all have to sell our tv's, mobiles, lap tops, PC's etc etc... ohh and electric cars will not get charged by wind farms!!!

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    Cornish Tax Payer, West of the Tamar  |  November 01 2010, 11:09AM

    @ Dengie Boy Maybe it's different where you live but down here in Cornwall an envelope of dirty bank notes will buy a lot of influence with the protection racket that passes for local government. Helps, too, if you know the right funny handshakes.

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    Dengie Boy, East Essex  |  November 01 2010, 9:52AM

    Cash incentives will not buy out opposition to industrial scale onshore wind power stations. The growing number of enviromentalists who are against this industrialisation of the british countryside, see commercial wind power as occupying a disproportionate amount of space for the useable amount of electricity they actually produce.

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    alan sanders, camborne  |  October 31 2010, 12:21PM

    why don't they put wind farms on brown field sites in built up areas instead of finding the most beautiful and natural places to put them. perhaps on mass housing estates,give grants for solar panels on flat roofs they put in bathrooms for disabled people why not help them by putting in panels as well. it seems to be a fight over AONBS rather then alternative energy and the cost of living a real fight over capitalism and how can the most money be made and not about people and needs.

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    Anna, Devon  |  October 31 2010, 9:18AM

    In the Regen SW annual survey of the South West for 2010 Mr Hyman said: "We are still seeing few projects of a significantly large scale being built. We are at risk of missing out on the potential of renewable energy to provide secure and sustainable energy as the foundation stone of a prosperous low-carbon economy." Wind power is not a secure source of electricity generation due to the intermittency and unpredictability of the wind. As a result, back-up from traditional power stations is required for up to 95% of the time, which means that the ramping up and down of those power stations will result in higher CO2 emissions as they are running inefficiently. As gas is the main source used by back-up power stations, this will increase our reliance on foreign supplies and make us vulnerable to huge increases in electricity prices (which is happening already). That increase is on top of the increase in prices by accommodating the ROC's for the wind power itself. Fuel poverty will be a serious issue and democracy is being compromised by trying to wave bribes in front of councillors' and council staff's noses. The Council's responsibility is to protect the residents from the noise created by industrial scale wind turbines and this should never be underestimated. This idea would put the Councils in the awkward position of trying to balance the books and offering the protection the residents deserve. It is just wrong and unfair!

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    Mike Hunt, St awfull  |  October 30 2010, 1:36PM

    They need to engage the local communities in this, as in if the wind farm is in your area then you get cheap electricity. I'm sure this would swing a few votes.