Wind farm planning approvals by local councils slump to record new low of 25%

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Figures revealed recently at the wind industry’s annual conference in Liverpool show that local council approvals of wind farm applications have fallen to a shocking new low of just a quarter of all applications.

The British Wind Energy Association’s (BWEA) State of the Industry Report shows that despite the strong growth in the number of wind farms being built, there is now an alarming drop in the number of new applications being approved locally.

This week the capacity of operational wind farms will reach a record 4GW of installed capacity, however approvals of new wind farm applications by local authority has fallen from 63% in 2007 to just 25% so far this year, forcing more developers to appeal applications to the Planning Inspectorate.

Approval rates at appeal are running at over twice the rate by local councils at 62%, showing that many of the fears raised at Council level were unjustified.

BWEA Chief Executive, Maria McCaffery MBE said: “The planning system is broken when it comes to wind energy. A 25% approval rate is truly shocking, especially when you think that there is an approval rate of over 70% for roads, housing and supermarkets.

Winning approvals at appeal is second best for everyone, it is expensive, slow and cumbersome for developers and frustrating & confusing for local people. We need a fresh, new approach to local decision making where Councils are not unduly swayed by vocal NIMBY pressure groups but make their judgments on the facts.”

And this is exactly it and we also must ask, and more than just ask, as to where and how the pressure groups get their finding for they are very well backed indeed. The question in my mind is as to whether vested interest are behind it rather that it being true grassroots movements, for I must say that from what I have seen those are anything but proper grassroots.

The Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy published in July set a target of 14GW of installed capacity for onshore wind by 2020. Onshore there are currently 3.2GW installed, 0.8GW being built and 3.4GW under construction – making 7.4GW total or just over half way to the target. However there are another 7.4GW in planning – enough to reach the target in time if they are approved.

Speaking at the BWEA conference where the report was launched former Deputy Prime Minister Rt Hon John Prescott MP, who was the UK’s Chief Negotiator for the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty and is now the Council of Europe Rapporteur on Climate Change said: “It is absolutely scandalous that three quarters of all planning applications for onshore wind turbines are turned down. We cannot let the vocal minority stop our move to a low carbon economy and stop us meeting our global emissions targets.”

McCaffery added: “We need wind to be delivered quickly because over the next decade fully one third of our existing power stations will be decommissioned, and without a dramatic change in our energy production we will reach the tipping point for catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

Although there is enough wind in the system to meet the 2020 renewable energy targets half the pipeline of these projects still needs to win approval - a local council approval rate of 25% threatens the delivery of that target in time.”

We must find a way of stopping the NIMBYs getting their way each and every time for reasons that have no reason.

Britain, as I said in another article, has more than its fair share of wind and hence is ideally placed to have a great part of its electricity needs met from wind generation, large and also and especially small scale, including and particular, micro-generation.

While we have wind blowing for most of the time in the British Isles we cannot so much rely on sun and hence solar panes and other solar devices are not all that much of anything.

Tidal power and water in general could provide another part of electricity from renewable source but wind will be the primary candidate and hence we must get wind turbines approved as much as possible.

Our Planet is in trouble and only if we can meet our electricity needs from sources other than coal, oil and gas can we step away from the brink of total destruction.

© 2009