The wind power sector has received its latest attack, after Lincolnshire county council appealed for an absolute halt to the “unrestrained invasion” of turbines in the region.
Councillors met last week to discuss the council’s position on onshore wind farms and decided that although it was “not opposed to all wind farms”, there existed an overriding concern that the county may have taken more than its fair share of wind farm developments.
“Enough is enough”, remarked council leader, Martin Hill.
“Not only are these things spoiling our beautiful countryside for future generations, they could also seriously damage the tourism industry.”
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Hill’s statements, appealing for a re-evaluation of the current Position Statement on Wind Farms, depict a view that is not unheard of in the media. Earlier this year, National Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins’ comments, in which he criticised wind power as the “least efficient” form of renewable energy, created an argument both about efficiency and the concern that wind farms are blighting treasured landscapes.
Sir Simon claimed that the wind powered turbines “wreck the countryside” – a view shared by Lincolnshire county council leader, Hill, who stated, “People enjoy living in Lincolnshire because we have a great way of life, not because of landscape’s blighted by wind farms.
“On top of that, there are also issues around the damage caused by roads during the construction and decommissioning of turbines.
“Although we understand the need for alternative energy and are not opposed to all wind farms”, he added, “We remain unconvinced by the questionable science behind them.”
With regard to the planning of wind turbine developments, the county council is not the local planning authority. The responsibility of wind farms under 50 megawatt (MW) in capacity lies with district councils, whilst developments over the 50MW benchmark sit with the Infrastructure Planning Commission and now the secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Davey.
County councils act as consultants on draft policies set up by the district council through the Local Development Framework Core Strategy.
Conservative MP for Lincoln, Karl McCartney, added, “This is an issue that I, along with 101 of my colleagues in Parliament, have written to [the] prime minister, David Cameron, about.”
Wind farm opposition is a much-covered subject, but Robert Norris, head of communications at RenewableUK, the trade and professional body for the wind industry, argues that this view is not in the majority.
“We want people to feel that they are part of the process of which wind farms are developed, with local community consent”, he told Blue & Green Tomorrow.
“We think that Lincolnshire county council should be judging every single application on its merits.
“That is the democratic way forward, rather than trying to pre-empt decisions by the district council or introduce blanket-bans.”
RenewableUK’s “disappointment” at the county council’s chosen stance highlights the “undemocratic” nature of the appeal.
Although Norris admits that consideration of an aesthetic argument is certainly an equal counter-weight that must be involved in the stringent process, he feels that the public’s right to comment on applications has somehow been overridden.
“A small group of people appear to be hijacking the debate”, he added.
This month, The Independent revealed surprisingly strong public support for wind farms. A ComRes poll which posed the statement, “Building new wind farms is an acceptable price to pay for greener energy in the future”, showed that 68% of the public were in agreement, 23% disagreed and the remaining 9% were unsure.
“Part of the process of switching from traditional fossil fuels to low carbon energy resources is asking whether people are prepared to accept that”, Norris said.
In response to Hill’s remarks that the science behind wind turbines is “questionable”, Norris responded, “I think Martin Hill is behind the times if he is thinking in this way. Really the debate on whether wind energy is efficient or cost effective has been settled years ago.
“Most scientific opinion will clarify that wind energy is an extremely efficient way of generating electricity.
“Onshore wind is the most cost effective form of renewable energy and it’s a mature renewable technology which crucially means that it can be deployed in time to make up this huge energy gap that we are facing.
“We think that the councillor needs to perhaps visit wind farms and see the effect that they have had on the local communities where they have been welcomed.”
Hill’s statements were published by hyperlocal news website, The Lincolnite, on June 6, and public responses teamed in.
One read, “Well done LCC (Lincolnshire county council), about time someone stopped the spread of these farms destroying our contryside (sic) and making profits for the companies.”
We refer this reader back to the point we made when responding to Sir Simon Jenkins’ attack on the wind industry: harnessing the vast potential of the UK’s both onshore and offshore wind is one of the most effective ways to ensure that our countryside is kept in its current, often pristine condition.
It’s in fact a failure to harness the capability of wind that will destroy the countryside.
At Blue & Green Tomorrow, we’re currently working on the latest edition to our “Guide to…” series, which focuses on renewable energy, so look out for that later this month.