Is the onshore rush over?


October 27, 2013

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According to the UK’s Energy Minister, some of the country’s wind farms are in the wrong place.

The comments, attributed to the minister, were made in a tabloid newspaper, and then repeated in a broadsheet.

Both articles quoted Greg Barker, the minister in question, as venturing that not every wind farm has been put in the right spot.

So far, so fair.

However, for Barker, that’s led him to suggest that planners have been too insensitive to the impact on the landscape. And, that in turn, it has spun public opinion against the wider renewable agenda.

Going one step further, this has, according to Barker, prompted him to suggest that as a nation, the UK must be clear about the need to limit the impact on the countryside and the landscape.

And here’s the rub – for Barker that means that he’s calling time on the so-called onshore wind rush.

So, does the good man know something that we don’t?

Certainly the way in which the public perceives onshore wind farms is an important and timely topic.

Particularly following an announcement received from the Economic and Social Research Council, a UK based research agency, earlier in the week.

In the story, the agency cited some ongoing work, that’s being undertaken at Aberystwyth University to study how onshore wind developments are viewed by the public.

It’s an interesting study, and should, on completion, go some way to corroborating whether local communities can be truly be brought ‘on side’ by wind energy developers through the planning process. As well as whether feelings of community disenfranchisement may be modified.

The research may also go some way to adding further context and rigour to Mr Barker’s comments that the impact on the landscape of wind turbines has turned the public against clean energy technology.

However, while the such opinions certainly help provoke constructive debate, Barker’s comments as to the slow down in onshore wind are also puzzling. Especially given the wider debate about consumer energy pricing, that rattles on.

Moreover, given that the roots of the debate lie in the supply side – notably that there isn’t enough generating capacity to support the UK’s needs – the assertion that the onshore wind ‘rush’ is over seems a little premature.

True, some wind farms may well, with hindsight prove to be misplaced.

However, given the UK’s long-term energy ambitions, this may well not be the only thing that proves to be an unwelcome addition to a critical debate.

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