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2,000 more wind turbines in countryside

The Observer (UK): 2,000 more wind turbines in countryside

Sunday 22 May 2005

 

Minister pledges numbers will double to generate 10pc of UK energy within five years

 

Mark Townsend, environment correspondent

Sunday May 22, 2005

 

A massive expansion of wind power involving thousands of new turbines will go ahead despite increasingly bitter wrangling over claims that they are despoiling Britain’s countryside.

 

In his first speech since becoming energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, will offer unequivocal backing to the green lobby by insisting it is ‘vital’ the government rides out vocal opposition to windfarms and sticks with wind energy.

 

Wicks will underline government pledges that by 2010 10 per cent of Britain’s electricity will be produced by renewable energy, including wind. The move will more than double the number of turbines across the country over the next few years.

 

The backing for wind power will equate to at least another 2,000 turbines sited across the UK with another 1,500 located offshore if the industry is to reach government targets. At the moment there are around 1,230 turbines in the UK.

 

A DTI spokesman said Wicks would use his debut announcement to ‘reaffirm the government’s commitment to developing wind’ to tackle the threat of climate change. The minister will also stress the importance of increasing British-produced electricity to limit reliance on imported power.

 

Pointedly, Wicks will not focus on another energy option – nuclear power – during the ‘All-Energy’ conference in Aberdeen.

 

The pledge comes days after a Sustainable Development Commission report insisted that wind power must be made to work in Britain if Tony Blair’s hopes of tackling the threat of global warming were to succeed. It said that by 2020 onshore wind power would be the cheapest form of electricity generation and, if the government remained committed, a fifth of Britain’s energy would come from wind.

 

Environmentalists will be delighted that the government remains serious about wind energy, although the option of nuclear, which provides around 23 per cent of Britain’s electricity, is being kept open as an energy that does not increase the threat of climate change.

 

It comes as the public inquiry into the controversial Whinash windfarm in Cumbria is expected to hear evidence this week. One opponent, the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, said: ‘I predict that most of these windfarms will be taken down within 15 years after ruining the place. The freedom to roam around in an unspoilt landscape is vital for many [people]’.

 

Geoffrey Sinclair of the No Whinash Windfarm pressure group said the government should outline precisely how much of future wind expan sion should be sited on the mainland or off the coast.

 

Wicks will outline his support this Wednesday in Aberdeen, home of Scotland’s oil industry. Others speakers include Lord Oxburgh, chairman of oil company Shell, who admits the threat of climate change had made him ‘very worried for the planet’.

 

Sir David King, the government’s chief scientist has said climate change posed a bigger threat to the world than terrorism. ‘You can’t slip a piece of paper between David King and me on this position,’ Lord Oxburgh, a respected geologist has said. Officials from the DTI added that Wicks would also speak of other renewable energy sources such as solar and wave power.

 

Last week’s report by the Sustainable Development Commission was hailed by the industry as a breakthrough because it showed wind power was becoming price competitive with other fuels. While onshore generation presently costs 3.2p a kilowatt hour, the wholesale price of electricity is 3p.

 

Critics say that wind energy is intermittent so requires back-up power to be available to make up for sudden shortfalls. Some claim that wind can only generate power for a third of the time.

 

However the commission, which advises the government on its sustainable policies, concludes this is a small issue until the country gains a fifth of its power from wind. Technology also makes it possible to predict falling supply. The additional cost of making up for ‘intermittency is 0.17p per kilowatt hour when there is 20 per cent wind power on the grid,’ it concludes.

 

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,,1489589,00.html

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