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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Huffing and puffing over ‘intrusive’ wind farms

LAST week, at a meeting of the full Cumbria County Council, I proposed the following motion:

“The county council has grave concerns that the current targets for onshore wind-generated energy ride roughshod over the capacity of our landscapes and seascapes to satisfactorily accommodate further wind farms. Cumbria’s environment is a key asset for economic wellbeing. The county council believes that a proliferation of wind farms will undermine efforts to address the county’s economic problems.

“The county council calls on the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to give a commitment to seek to ensure that Government will reduce its over reliance on onshore wind, reduce current wind-related targets and invest, as a matter of urgency, in other low carbon energy generation.”

This beautiful county of Cumbria, a jewel in the crown of landscapes, which generations have protected against the avarice of commerce and the capriciousness of government is being disfigured and scarred through the obscene bribery to erect wind turbines on every hill and every mountain-top and every vacant plot of windswept Cumbrian countryside and coast.

These wind farm schemes, by virtue of their size, scale and extent adversely affect both the historic landscape and the seascape patterns of Cumbria and the Solway by introducing intrusive, standardised industrial structures where none has ever existed.

Numerous studies have called into question further wind farm development:

A recent study commissioned by 4NW, the Northwest’s Regional Leaders’ Forum, confirmed that meeting current regional targets for wind-farms would result in significant changes to landscape character with many areas being defined by those wind farms.

The Centre for Policy Studies has dismissed wind power as unreliable and expensive, and said Government plans for a 20-fold increase in power production were over-ambitious and impractical. There are now 151 anti wind-farm action groups in the UK which have been formed as a result of wind-farm developments planned for local countryside areas.

Even OFGEM is now calling for an end to the subsidy system, stating it is “the most costly and inefficient form of lowering C02 emissions yet devised”.

A near £lbillion hidden subsidy today across the UK is eventually expected to rise to a cumulative £32billion by 2020.

I believe the £32billion of subsidies would be better spent in developing alternative forms of energy such as wave, tidal, hydro and of course nuclear.

For example: Just one nuclear plant, Sizewell B, produces more than twice as much electricity as all the collective output of the 2,120 wind turbines currently operating in Britain. And it does so reliably, without the need to keep backup generation ticking over. One nuclear industrial scar removes the need for thousands of wind turbine industrial scars littering our precious countryside.

The national policy to expand wind-farms will have severe consequences for Cumbria and will devastate some of Cumbria’s finest landscapes. I believe this national policy is misguided, out of date and is certainly not democratic for it does not take into account the wishes of local people.

There is no doubt that wind energy development will have an adverse effect, on a range of environmental, social and economic issues in Cumbria. Cumbria’s economy is already fragile and we cannot afford for it be diminished even further. So, I call on the government to reduce its obsession with wind farms.

The government’s and the EU’s climate change policy demands much more wind-generated electricity. People will be surprised and perhaps even horrified how much this is already affecting, or likely to affect, Cumbria:

92 wind turbines are already operational

13 wind turbines are being planned

46 turbines are being considered

70 turbines are being scoped...

And a further 266 wind turbines off-shore.

Cumbria is now the fifth poorest county or region in the whole of the EU.

I fail to see how the development of a proposed further 395 wind turbines will aid Cumbria’s economy in the long run.

Ministers argue that wind energy is “the most commercially viable renewable technology”. Simply not true. Wind turbines are heavily subsidised through a complicated system of Renewable Obligation Certificates – £32 billion of subsidy is not cheap.

Energy experts have warned that the “Renewable Obligation” subsidy system is, and I quote, “hugely flawed” and places an unfair burden on families at a time when household bills are soaring. Last year even the energy watchdog, Ofgem, called for the Renewables Obligation to be scrapped.

I suggested to my fellow county councillors that we are not only the keepers of Cumbria’s public purse; we are – along with seven other local authorities – one of the prime keepers of Cumbria’s unique landscape. We also have, as one of our prime objectives, the resuscitation and regeneration of Cumbria’s economy.

It is my view that the further development of wind farms in Cumbria:

Will do much to damage the combined visual and landscape benefits which we and 19 million visitors each year enjoy

will damage our economy even further

will do little for wealth creation except for the developers who will build, pack up, go home, and pocket their profits

and Cumbria will be left with the dreadful consequences.

All of these severe disadvantages significantly outweigh any benefits associated with further wind farm energy production in Cumbria.

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