Ministers squabble over wind farm report

As I understand it, a row over wind farms is blocking the report which could provide official confirmation that these farms can do harm to rural areas. The department of energy and climate change (DECC) is said to be trying to stop the environment secretary from publishing the report.

The head of DECC and the environment secretary belong to different political parties in the coalition and they do not see eye to eye on the question of wind farms.

The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, is a known opponent of onshore wind farms and it was he who commissioned the report. He is believed to be furious at attempts by DECC to stifle his department and is determined to publish the findings of the report. Opponents of wind farms claim that they are unsightly and are an inefficient method of energy generation.

Sources in the department for the environment, food and rural affairs claim that some DECC officials are more worried about ideology than scientific evidence. They say DECC is concerned that the report, which is still incomplete, could include negative conclusions about how renewable energy affects the rural economy.

The sources added, “They don’t want information out there that would allow people to challenge the energy solutions they are going after.” In other words, they are reluctant for people to know the whole truth.

Prime Minister David Cameron has signalled his growing opposition to onshore wind farms, saying that there is now limited potential for the technology in the UK. He said he was in favour of offshore farms and of shale gas exploration.

The Paterson-commissioned report is about the impact of all energy sources on the countryside and on the rural economy. A spokesman said, “We need to understand the effects that different technologies have on the environment and on communities across the country.”

A few weeks ago, following government moves to make it easier for local communities to block wind farm projects from going ahead, Mr Paterson said, “I know there is huge unhappiness with some of these projects.

“There are places where they are well prepared and the community wants them. But in inland areas, they are very often deeply unpopular.” While speaking to factory workers in Lancashire earlier this month, the Prime Minister said that people should not expect to see a lot more onshore wind power in the UK.

He added, “There is a limited potential for onshore wind farms. We have just changed the rules. We have cut subsidies and we have said that any schemes that go ahead have to give more benefit to local communities.”

A significant focus of the report is expected to be the financial impact of wind farms upon the value of properties near them. The consultancy company Frontier Economics, which is carrying out the work, was asked to calculate how house prices will be affected not only by wind farms but also by a series of other energy projects across Britain.

It will look at onshore and offshore wind projects, overhead power lines, shale gas, anaerobic digestion plants as well as nuclear power plants. It will determine whether energy projects have a significant impact on the prices of neighbouring houses and, if so, compare how that impact differs between the different types of projects.

I first had a close look at wind farms on a visit to Portugal many years ago and was amazed at how tall the turbines were and how noisy. I certainly would not want one of them anywhere near my house.

I later visited a company in Hungary that manufactures these massive turbines and what I can say is that an unbelievable amount of money is being made from the whole concept of wind energy. I can hardly wait to read the finished report from Frontier Economics and hope that the squabbling parties in the coalition can settle their differences.


"Ministers squabble over wind farm report"

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