Back to

Everything to do with wind farms attracts adverse headlines.


Western Daily Press 23 January 2006

Wind farms are being touted as the green, renewable power source of the 21st century, which will save our society when the oil runs out. But there's also a sinister side to their development, Conservative Bridgwater MP IAN LIDDELL-GRAINGER argues.

A couple of days before Christmas, when everyone else was far too busy being festive to take notice, a Scottish electricity firm submitted a sneaky little application to the body that is supposed to regulate the energy industry - Ofgem.

Ofgem's slogan is protecting customers is our first priority - but believe that and you'll believe anything.

The company concerned, CRE Energy, is a subsidiary of Scottish Power.

You might have heard of Scottish Power. They own several big power stations and will cheerfully sell you their watts.

But, canny Scots that they are, they have also got a finger in the so-called 'green energy source of the future' - or wind farms. Their subsidiary is applying for the right to compulsorily purchase land in order to build more of them.

And not just in Scotland either - we are talking about absolutely anywhere.

The timing of this application must have been deliberate. Perhaps the company was hoping that nobody would notice, because wind farms are controversial in Scotland and Somerset.

Everything to do with wind farms attracts adverse headlines.

They contribute nothing to the power needs of the nation and they scare the living daylights out of birds. They attract huge European subsidies and, as a direct result, they attract huge numbers of Johnny-come-lately companies who want a slice of the action.

CRE Energy may have a flawless corporate pedigree, but if their request for compulsory purchase powers is granted - and it looks as though Ofgem is already inclined to approve - then an extraordinary and dangerous precedent will have been set.

The day after tomorrow your friendly neighbourhood postmen could be delivering a compulsory purchase order to you, and you, and YOU.

No argument and no appeal.

Take the money and get out of your home, in order to make way for the latest generation of half-hearted generators, pylons, sub-stations and all the ugly infrastructure that goes with it.

Never mind the fact that all wind farms look absolutely horrid.

Never mind the fact that every energy expert on the planet regards them as more of a plaything than a power source. Once one firm gets compulsory purchase powers it opens the door to all of the others.

If you have never encountered the brutal finality of the compulsory purchase order, then just ask anyone who was uprooted when the M5 motorway was built.

It is not nice to be told you've got to leave your home and take the paltry price they offer for the property you have slaved all your life to be able to afford.

The compulsory purchase order was always intended to be used sparingly and for projects with an identifiable 'national' interest.

But what can possibly be the positive benefit to the nation if some company which nobody has ever heard of bungs up half a dozen wind mills on the Somerset Levels capable of lighting just a handful of homes for just a few hours a week?

Never mind the benefit, feel the political correctness. We are meant to love wind farms because they are supposed to be environmentally friendly.

The Government is locked into an out-of-date commitment to major increases in alternative renewable energy.

Over-generous grants are still being made available for green solutions. We are still giving wallets of cash away to encourage an energy source that makes insignificant energy and no sense.

You need to be cucumber-green to believe it all, or else completely naive.

Even Prime Minister Tony Blair is now beginning to admit that nuclear power is a far more realistic solution to a national energy crisis that is pushing up prices faster than my hard-pressed constituents can afford. Wind power simply can't come anywhere near plugging the gap when North Sea oil and gas runs out. The gurus of the turning turbines are just well-meaning windbags.

And that description must also include the sandalled souls at Somerset County Council who seem to be hell-bent on setting up community wind farms all over the county.

If that idea wasn't daft enough on its own, Somerset County Council - or any county council - may soon be able to compulsorily purchase your back yard to put them in.

You have been warned - a frightening wind rush is about to begin.