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March 1 2005 Wind

Power game over park pylons scheme  

SCOTTISH and Southern Energy bosses are being asked to reveal the cost of undergrounding a section of the massive electricity lines planned to possibly cut through the Cairngorms National Park.

Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MSP Fergus Ewing is backing campaigners in Laggan and Dalwhinnie who are bidding to stop the 70-metre pylons from being erected in Scotland's second national park.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) wants to construct a 400,000 volt electricity transmission line from Beauly to Denny, near Stirling.

The new 220km line of pylons will replace the existing 132,000 volt power line which are already clearly visible from the A9 Inverness-Perth road from Drumochter northwards.

Local protesters have claimed that the larger pylons will dominate the main entrance to the Cairngorms National Park and the surrounding landscape.

Mr Ewing said: "Over the past few weeks I have received representations from constituents about the visual impact which the Scottish and Southern Energy pylons would have on the landscape.

"This was highlighted, graphically, in the 'Strathy' and clearly this is a matter of growing concern.

"The alternative to the pylons is to lay cabling underground. I have asked SSE that costings of underground cabling should be provided, and that they are then considered further."

Residents in Laggan have formed a protest group - Cairngorms Re-volt - and produced a number of photo montages designed to show the scale of the new pylons against famous landmarks in Scotland.

Among the scaled images they have produced to support their case is a mock-up of one of the proposed 70metre high pylons next to Ardverikie House - made famous as Glenbogle in the hit BBC series Monarch of the Glen.

Other pictures show a line of pylons coming through Strathmashie Forest, while another shows the new pylons in comparison to the height of the existing ones and the famous Wallace Monument near Stirling and Glenfinnan Monument on the shores of Loch Shiel.

The group is now liaising with other organisations concerned at the power company's plans.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority recently called for more information, including photo montages, on the line after the SSE asked for comments on a revised route.

The alterations see the transmission line go down Glen Shirra to the east of Kinlochlaggan before crossing the A86 south of Inverpattack Lodge and rejoining the existing line further south.

A report commissioned by Highland Council looking at the technical options and economical implications of undergrounding the power lines is due out in the next couple of weeks.

Scottish and Southern Energy have said that the pylons are necessary for carrying electricity generated in the Highlands by proposed renewable schemes to the National Grid The firm is expected to release details of the final route in the next month, along with a planning application to the Scottish Executive.

Wo rk on the project is due to start on the ground later this year with the line being operational in three to four years.




14:00 - 28 February 2005

The Gower Society has published a guide to the route of the Gower way between Rhosilli and Mynnydd-y- Gwair and enjoy fabulous scenery. I wonder if it knew that there will be no fabulous view if the wind farm plan goes ahead?

Hopefully, the rest of Wales will wake up soon and realise that once again our precious landscape will be torn up to provide absent masters and United Utilities with a little more pocket money and this will not be underground this time.

Cardiff is the centre of the universe as far as this blinkered Assembly is concerned but we all have a vote and the sooner we get this befuddled bunch of AMs out of office and get people in who will protect the uplands of Wales from destruction the better.

Wind power does not work and will need conventional power as well. Wave power would provide all we need.

It may take a little longer but the world is not about to come to an end because Wales hasn't tilted at windmills! George Bush is not signed up for Kyoto and is not concerned, why isn't Tony following his master this time?

L B Gammon

Rhyd y Gwin, Craigcefnparc

Date : 01.03.05
 An independent report has rejected claims that a huge windfarm in the Westcountry would be environmentally friendly and help to save the planet from global warming.

The study by the leading energy consultant Hugh Sharman describes the promotional material for a ten-turbine windfarm in Den Brook Valley, near North Tawton, Devon, as "a combination of feeble arithmetic and misinformation". He condemns the brochure as combining "fact and fiction in an alarming way".

And he is urging the company behind the project, Renewable Energy Systems (RES), to review its publicity for the windfarm as it "so exaggerates the benefits" and parts of it are "so easy to ridicule".

RES last night rejected his findings and said: "We have always prided ourselves on an open and honest approach and we recognise our obligation to present information in a truthful way. We utterly refute the implication that our leaflet is intentionally misleading."

The study was commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) after its chairman, the broadcaster and businessman Noel Edmonds, accused the company at a public meeting in January of putting out "misleading" information to the public.

Mr Edmonds said yesterday: "When people in the North Tawton area saw the RES brochure they felt that it contained several statements that were misleading.

"They asked the Renewable Energy Foundation to examine the text, which we did, and concluded that many of the claims in this document were questionable.

"This report by Mr Sharman, an independent energy consultant from Denmark, with a wealth of experience of the wind industry, confirms our own analysis and shows just where we believe RES's statements are misleading."

The report counters claims by the windfarm industry that it is being misrepresented. The promotional material for the project, "Den Brook to do its bit for the planet?", even includes a section called "Fact, Fiction or Rumours?" which claims to unravel some of the arguments made by windfarm opponents.

It asks: "Will windfarms make one jot of difference to global warming?" and then replies: "In total, wind turbines already generate more than 20,000,000 kilowatt hours each year and that really does make a difference, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by four trillion tonnes annually." But Mr Sharman, who is owner and director of the independent energy consultancy Incoteco (Denmark), takes the opposite view. "The fact is that the UK produces less than 2 per cent of world emissions and this proportion is decreasing," he says.

"However, much wind power has been installed, it is not 'cutting greenhouse gases by four million tonnes annually'. If true, this would amount to 16 per cent of 2004 global CO2 emissions."

Mr Sharman's report was yesterday welcomed by the Den Brook Valley Action Group (DBVAG), which is campaigning against the plans for ten turbines with 60-metre towers and 40-metre blades.

The group hopes it could strengthen its hand when the project come up before West Devon District Council for consideration, which is expected to be in April. Muriel Goodman, chairman of DBVAG, said of Mr Sharman's report: "It's quite an eye-opener. It's extremely important that the local community have access to all reliable information. We believe a lot of the claims that have been made are misleading."

Mr Sharman's findings also further undermine the argument for more onshore windfarms at a time when a succession of reports have questioned their efficiency, effectiveness and the huge level of public subsidies supporting them.

One study last month on Germany, which has 15,000 turbines - the greatest number in Europe - came to several damning conclusions. It was hailed as a warning to the UK not to follow a similar route in the rush to onshore wind power.

That report, commissioned by the German government, found: "The amount of the climate-changing gas CO2 saved by wind could be achieved more cheaply with other measures. The costs, which consumers must pay for the environment-friendly power, are considerably higher than previously assumed."

The findings were revealed at the same time as the UK Government's National Audit Office gave its own scathing verdict on the subsidies system, reporting that the typical subsidy of 30 per megawatt hour was at least twice the level needed for windfarm firms to make a profit. And it warned that the scale of the subsidies was likely to push up electricity bills by at least 5.7 per cent.

Renewable Energy Systems last night gave this initial response to Mr Sharman's report: "We take the allegations made by REF extremely seriously and are going through them in detail with our technical experts and legal team.  As one of the most established and successful wind power companies in Britain, we have always prided ourselves on an open and honest approach and we recognise our obligation to present information in a truthful way.  We utterly refute the implication by REF that our leaflet is intentionally misleading.

"In February we met with REF to explain the calculations behind our figures and why we are convinced that the Den Brook windfarm will make a significant contribution to electricity needs in a non-polluting way.  The proposal has a good level of support in the community and has been designed and located to have no negative effects on local wildlife or residents. The Renewable Energy Foundation admitted to us that they would be willing to support a good quality onshore windfarm. We believe that Den Brook is such a thing - an example of good practice and precisely the kind of low-impact project that deserves their backing. We also welcome the REF's support for  the development of 10GW of wind capacity in the UK and their agreement that the UK's electricity system could cope with this much electricity coming from the wind.  The National Grid recently confirmed that the UK grid could accommodate as much as 20 per cent of wind-generated electricity. By generating clean, green electricity, the Den Brook windfarm will help protect our natural resources and help Devon  do its bit in the urgent fight against climate change."


Green or grotesque?

Tuesday March 1, 2005

The Guardian

Your coverage (Report doubts future of wind power, and The menaced landscape, 26 February), highlighting the financial cost of developing wind energy in Germany, misses the point of why we need renewable energy.

To ensure sustainable, clean electricity we must continue to develop renewables as part of a diverse energy mix. Wind technology is ready for immediate expansion. Far from "destroying the landscape", our planning system balances local and environmental concerns with the national interest before allowing wind farm developments.

The government has committed 500m to speeding the development of emerging renewables, such as wave and tidal power. But, in the meantime, we do not have the luxury of doing nothing.

Producing 10% of UK electricity from renewables by 2010 could cut carbon emissions by 2.5m tonnes a year if the equivalent amount was generated from gas. And the renewables industry could sustain 35,000 UK jobs by 2020. The costs of not embracing renewables are the costs we truly cannot afford.

Mike O'Brien

Energy minister
Anyone who doubts that Robert Macfarlane is right about the devastating effects of wind farms need only pay a short visit to Navarra, in Spain. The Navarra Pyrenees are swept by strong westerlies. These have been exploited by the construction of wind farms, which have destroyed otherwise magnificent scenery.

I have stood on the wall of a medieval castle in the area and stopped counting at 130 turbines, dominating and despoiling the environment. On our travels though Navarra, we encountered numerous such vistas of metal monsters. They had taken over the skylines. They will destroy every piece of countryside where they are constructed en masse.

Geoff Holman

Knutsford, Cheshire
Robert Macfarlane misses the main reason why wind farms are popular with politicians - precisely be cause they are highly visible. They give the impression that "something is being done" about climate change. How appropriate that they rotate; their primary function is spin.
But, as Macfarlane notes, it is mainly large multinationals and landowners who are pushing for wind farms. They have their eyes on the subsidies that western governments, desperate to meet Kyoto targets, have ready. Our countryside is in danger of being ruined by a combination of greed, good intentions and subsidy.
Brian Hughes
Cheltenham, Glos
Characterising a report by the German energy agency as casting doubt on the future of wind, when it actually says that a doubling of that country's wind generation capacity by 2015 is affordable, is to succumb to the spin of those for whom the "preservation" of the countryside is deemed more important than any other issue.

In that vein, Robert Macfarlane presents a false choice: keep all the landscapes of Britain as they are or allow wind development. The true choice is between landscapes ravaged by rapid climate change or a countryside partially altered by mitigating measures, of which wind power is only one.
Dr Gordon Edge
British Wind Energy Association
Domestic energy conservation is more cost-effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than any form of energy generation. So the real question is this: why isn't every house being brought up to the highest European energy-efficiency standards?
Dr Ben Lane
Faculty of Technology, Open University


 The power pack 

 The renewable energy sector is growing. Patrick Robinson and Ross Fairley report on how UK regional firms are getting involved

Expansion in the UK renewables sector over the past few years has by any measure been astonishing. Many people associate renewable energy with wind turbines, which is testament to the tremendous lobbying work carried out by bodies such as the British Wind Energy Association, but there are many other renewables technologies being developed and beginning to come on stream.

The South West continues to position itself as a leader in the renewables field and is committed to remaining there. One only has to look at the developments coming forward, such as Devon's proposed wave hub to harness wave power and tidal technology, which is being pioneered by Marine Current Turbines. As the wind sector continues to develop and the first offshore wind farms begin operations, the Government is starting to turn its attention to biomass and is pumping resources in the form of capital grants and energy crops grants into the biomass sector.

At the end of 2004, a government taskforce, headed by former National Farmers' Union president Sir Ben Gill, was announced to stimulate biomass supply and demand. This came about partly in response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's special report on biomass, which had criticised the Government for neglecting biomass as a renewable form of energy capable of tackling climate change.

Just as the renewable energy sector has developed, so the role of lawyers in these types of projects has evolved. At the outset of the renewable energy boom, the lead role for lawyers was centred very much on the planning permission and consenting process. Specialist advice was needed on how to negotiate the intricacies of planning. Planning advice is still very important, particularly for the novel projects and controversial areas of the country.

This is never more the case than when a proposed generation plant exceeds a capacity of 50MW, when the authorising process for it becomes vested in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. A consent under this act operates as a planning permission, avoiding a separate process. It is essential to have lawyers on board at an early stage, recognising that, although with the standard planning application negotiation can continue until a decision is made and then an appeal can be run when lawyers can be involved to ensure the case is properly prepared, with a Section 36 consent no such appeal procedure exists. If a proper planning case is not made to the DTI, the application will fail. It is here where a skilled lawyer comes into their own, ensuring that not just the environmental and land use implications of the scheme are satisfied, but also that the scheme is deliverable in all other respects. Without this second aspect, DTI support for the scheme will fade rapidly.

So it is not surprising that developers, investors and lenders now look for legal advisers that can provide input not only from the consenting side, but more importantly on the commercial side of these types of projects, with advice focusing on the ultimate intentions of the developers of projects, the electricity infrastructure and the offtake arrangements surrounding a project and the financing strategies for it. Recent years have seen a number of AIM listings of renewables companies requiring the input of strong commercial and corporate lawyer teams with track records and market reputations in this type of work.

Among the developing technologies, law firms have had to get to grips with the fact that many of the renewables projects coming forward are small-scale developments where professional advisers' costs are a sensitive issue. Perhaps this is why the regional and national firms have so far taken a key role in advising on renewables developments and will continue to do so.

More sophisticated clients now also realise that, as well as their lawyers being able to offer advice on the whole lifecycle of a project, they must also be able to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of all the related technologies and drivers that may have an effect on their proposals. Renewable energy has become unavoidably entwined with the whole issue of waste disposal, community heating, security of electricity supply and carbon trading, to name but a few. Knowledge of one isolated sector, however deep, will simply no longer suffice.

The planning system itself has recognised this diversification. Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS 22), issued at the end of 2004, recognised the commitment of the Government in shaping the planning system to allow it to authorise sufficient new development to meet the Government's white paper targets for new renewable sources. From the outset, PPS 22 recognises the links with both energy-from-waste and combined heat and power plants and directs readers to Planning Policy Guidance 10 (planning and waste management) and the Government's Waste Strategy 2000.

There is a long way to go before we get anywhere near meeting the Government's targets for renewable energy generation (15 per cent of UK electricity supply by 2015), but good regional and national firms will continue to play a key role on the legal side in developing this sector.

Patrick Robinson and Ross Fairley are partners in the renewable energy team at Burgess Salmon



First Islamic changes name to Arcapita

 Why wind power just won't work
From: Barrie Abbott, (Secretary RAW, Residents Against Wind, Denby Dale), Denby Lane, Upper Denby, Huddersfield.
THE wind farm scheme at Thorne cannot generate 83 megawatts (at 100 per cent efficiency) over any extended period, as has been reported. On the best sites, it is possible to reach 40 per cent efficiency; in the UK and Europe, 25 per cent efficiency is more realistic. An analysis of Germany's wind turbines during 2003 showed for about six months, efficiency was below 14 per cent. About 12 to 20 megawatts output is more realistic for Thorne. "Sufficient for 39,000 homes" should similarly be reduced to 10,000 when including consumption by offices, factories, etc. Additionally, no current or projected wind turbines can generate the output of Drax. At 25 per cent efficiency, 8,000 x 2 megawatt units would be required. In any case, at low wind speeds or above 55 mph, wind turbines cannot operate, requiring Drax to always be operational.
Fossil-fuelled power stations must eventually be phased out, but not by installing inefficient wind turbines.
Almost certainly, the way ahead is with energy conservation, hydro electricity, wind generators (probably at sea), nuclear power, hydrogen fuels and a reducing number of conventional sources whose gases are "scrubbed" clean. It will not happen by 2010 or 2020AD