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Wind turbine debate set to blow hard over council plan

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 14, 2012

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Imagine the situation. Every time the wind blows, your local council makes money.

On top of that, thousands of homes all around you will be supplied by green renewable energy – energy created by council-owned wind turbines and situated on council-owned farms.

Sounds idyllic, and eminently sensible, does it not?

But as Cornwall Council is finding out, not everyone sees it that way.

There are the normal and justifiable arguments and objections that surround every turbine application in the country: visual impact and efficacy.

"Who wants those industrial monsters near their homes?" asks Alan Nunn in our report today, and to be fair it is a good question.

Most people are in favour of harnessing the power of the wind, the sun, and the waves – until a scheme is proposed near their homes or even within their view.

Renewable energy is the new "nimby" battleground of our time.

Mr Nunn, of the Realistic Energy Forum South West, was speaking out after it was revealed that Cornwall Council is to spend £16 million building a string of wind turbine farms across the county.

Ten possible sites have been identified and if all goes according to plan they could be built on council-owned land in 18 months' time.

Now there is a new issue at play.

Is it right that a council is investing public money into renewable energy schemes such as these?

Quite possibly, for it is not hard to make a convincing case that this is far-sighted and well planned investment in Cornwall infrastructure.

It is a harder argument to win amid the fact that Cornwall's budgets are under immense pressure – so much so that the elected councillors and the council Cabinet have fallen out over whether or not essential services are "privatised".

"Certainly not", said the councillors, but the cabinet pressed ahead with the decision anyway.

That in itself is a decision that has sparked much debate both in Cornwall and here in the opinion pages of the Western Morning News.

The council's plan to spend £16 million on wind turbines is likely to attract even more attention.

All this at a time when the case for renewable energy is probably stronger than ever.

Last month, we reported how the Beyond The Bluster report from the IPPR think tank calculated that wind turbines were slashing emissions in the UK to the equivalent of taking 2.1 million cars a year.

At the same time the UK Government has a legally binding target of at least an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

It is a huge target and one that will not be achieved without some visionary and strong leadership.

The need for renewable energy is beyond doubt, but debate will rage about where farms are situated, and who is going to pay for them.

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