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This section of the ActonBridge.Org website discusses a proposed 12MW wind turbine installation on Green Belt land at Aston, our neighbouring parish just across the River Weaver.


A Response by Steve Pardoe of Acton Bridge Parish Council, to a 'Response' article in The Guardian newspaper on 14. December 2007, by Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of the British Wind Energy Association, the trade body for wind farm developers.

You can read Maria McCaffery's article on-line here - worth a click, if only to see some of the readers' comments!

To the editor of The Guardian, 14. December 2007

Sir,

The disingenuous PR puff blown out by the Chief Executive of the principal UK wind power lobby ('Response', Maria McCaffery, British Wind Energy Association, 14. December 2007, p 45) should not go unchallenged. The only 'green' element of Industry Secretary John Hutton's latest announcement is that it is itself recycled. No wonder "the wind industry is extremely excited" at the prospect of millions of UK consumers paying a huge premium for their electricity, so that her members can cash in on an eco-fad.

Maria McCaffery's complaint that "another 8GW worth of schemes are currently stuck in the bureaucracy of the onshore planning system" is outrageous. She goes on to ask the government "to remove the remaining policy obstacles, such as unblocking the planning system onshore and guaranteeing early connections to the National Grid...". It would be odd if Maria McCaffery were unaware of Planning Policy Statement PPS22, which the government introduced specifically in order to lower the bar in planning applications for wind turbines and other renewables. However, the Policy still requires the developer to show 'very special circumstances' to justify inappropriate development in sensitive areas, such as the Green Belt, and thank goodness it does.

We have a case in point in Cheshire at the moment, which will show the wider context. An application for a 12MW wind farm has gone to a Planning Inquiry, after being refused permission by the Local Authority (both in Committee and in full Council). These four gigantic turbines would stand over 400 feet high, and every one of the eight adjoining Parishes has opposed the scheme, which is on a prominent ridge within the North Cheshire Green Belt, runs over Areas of Special County Value, Local Environmental Value and the new Weaver Valley Regional Park, and is near to or overlaps Sites of Biological Importance and Scientific Interest, not to mention the Trent and Mersey Canal Conservation Area. In this part of Cheshire, it's hard to imagine a more insensitive choice of site. Would Maria McCaffery trample over all these established planning designations in her greed to festoon the countryside with lucrative turbines?

And for whom are these installations so lucrative? Negligible UK employment or revenue would result. The Cheshire developer is a Welsh-sounding front for German financial interests, and the turbines would come from Vestas Wind Systems in Denmark. Both these countries already suffer from over-supply and grid irregularities, owing to the unpredictable nature (literally) of the wind. Surely Maria McCaffery will have spotted the full-page article in last Friday's Guardian, featuring Mr Ditlev Engel, chief executive of the very same Vestas, admitting that "demand for wind turbines has led to a shortage of components and quality-control issues. Vestas is having to provide larger and larger financial guarantees to its increasingly blue-chip customers, worried that a shortage of components could lead to lower standards". Vestas's Cheshire scheme is for 12MW - Maria McCaffery's 8GW of "stuck" onshore capacity is 666 times this. It does not compute.

Her capacity forecasts are silly enough, but what about the government's "guaranteeing early connections to the National Grid"? Maria McCaffery says "Offshore wind is the best quality of wind in the world - consistent and powerful". Perhaps, compared with onshore, but rarely where it's needed. Following Mr Hutton's announcement last week, another spokesman for the BWEA appeared on Channel 4 News and argued that, even on calm days, the wind is usually blowing somewhere, and that at times of high demand [all the time] but low generation [most of the time], the limited available capacity could be shared around the country or - wait for it - imported from France. Has he done the sums? Wind energy is fine on a windy (but not too windy) day if you generate near to demand and don't mind outages, but pretty silly if you generate on Shetland and demand is in the Midlands, 24/7.

Wind energy proposals often quote the 'energy' they would supply to power a given number of homes. However, such statistics are disingenuous in two ways. To start with, 'energy' tends to be used as a shorthand for 'electricity', and only a fraction of energy demand, especially domestically, is electrical. How are wind turbines supposed to power our gas or oil central heating, our cars, and so on? The 'homes' statistic also deliberately overlooks the fact that only a minority of electricity is used in homes - twice as much again is used by industry, commerce and other infrastructure. Is no-one to go to work, or to the shops, or to hospital, on a windless winter day?

Nice try by the BWEA, and indeed by Mr Hutton, but it's only desperation that leads to such fatuous arguments for yet further subsidy and planning concessions.


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