True scale of wind industry revealed as number of turbines reaches 30000

May 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The issue of wind power is likely to be a key election battleground after
David Cameron pledged that there would be no more subsidies for onshore wind
under a Conservative government.

Wind farms have often met with strong local opposition, and are estimated to
add £765 million a year to consumers’ bills through subsidies, according to
the Renewable Energy Foundation.

Many Tories fear that the issue could cost them crucial votes in rural areas.

Analysis by RenewableUK, the wind industry body, shows that the total number
of turbines increased by 13 per cent, to 29,353 at the end of last year, and
is now expected to have surpassed 30,000.

Developers have told The Telegraph that they have seen a surge in interest in
smaller wind turbines around the country.

Data compiled by Earthmill, a specialist in farm turbines, showed a 60 per
cent rise in the number of “live” planning applications for small and
mid-sized turbines since October, with 810 applications in the system at the
end of last month.

Chris Heaton-Harris MP, who has led the campaign against onshore wind
turbines, said: “The true scale of onshore wind and its cost is only just
beginning to come to light.

“Small-scale turbines can be as controversial as big wind farms, depending on
where they are sited. I am very pleased my party has said we will let local
communities decide where to site these things.

“But my opinion is we have too many already because the subsidy is too high,
and we are backing a losing horse in the race for sustainable energy.”

He said the smaller turbines “can go much closer to people’s homes”.

He added: “It is proximity to other dwellings that causes the upset.”

In 2013, 605 medium and large-scale turbines of more than 100kW were
installed. In the same year, RenewableUK estimates that 3,536 smaller
turbines were also installed.

However, the data for so far in 2014 shows that the installation rate for the
larger turbines is slowing, amid a tougher planning regime as communities
secretary Eric Pickles calls in more applications for review. Only 141
turbines of 100kW or greater capacity have been installed so far this year.

Steve Milner, director of Earthmill, said that small and mid-sized turbines
were popular with farmers as they reduced their energy costs.

He said that a 225kW turbine – which could reach 147 feet tall – could cost up
to £500,000 to install.

A farmer could however expect to recoup that cost within 10 years through a
combination of subsidies, which are funded through levies on consumer energy
bills, the avoided costs of buying power, and additional income from selling
surplus power. The subsidies would continue for a further 10 years, meaning
they could expect to make a further £500,000, he said.

But Mr Milner said that gaining planning permission was getting “significantly
harder”. “There are more objections and more hoops to jump through,” he
said.

Jennifer Webber, director of external affairs at RenewableUK, said: “Small and
medium wind turbines are a lifeline for Britain’s rural economy – research
shows that 40 per cent of farmers are generating much-needed income from
renewables, and a further 61 per cent are intending to do so over the next
five years, so we could soon see three out of every four farmers using
renewable energy.

“The vast majority of the onshore wind turbines installed in the UK are micro,
small and medium-sized turbines installed by people living in rural areas
generating their own power, and protecting themselves from the cost of
having to import energy”.

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