The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has lifted blanket objections to around 1600 MW of wind projects in southern Scotland. The MoD decision comes after studies showed that wind turbines would not impact its seismic array at Eskdalemuir as much as had been feared initially. The Eskdalemuir array monitors the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by registering underground explosions, even at great distances. On New Year's Day 2004, the MoD placed an exclusion zone on all wind turbines within 80 kilometres of Eskdalemuir after information from the United States suggested that vibrations from wind turbines would mask sensitive seismic readings of nuclear explosions around the world. The ban effectively sterilised 1600 MW of wind development in the permit system or being prepared for permit applications -- equivalent to 40% of the expected contribution from onshore wind to the UK's renewables target. A working group of the British Wind Energy Association, MoD, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Scottish Executive commissioned Keele University to research the problem. Its results show that wind turbines will not affect the function of the Eskdalemuir array as long as they are sited more than 17.5 kilometres distant. The MoD has reduced its exclusion zone to ten kilometres around Eskdalemuir and recommends that wind farms are not located within 17.5 kilometres until turbine design is improved. Energy minister Malcolm Wicks calls the Eskdalemuir agreement an example of industry and government working together to remove obstacles to achieving the UK's environmental goals. "This agreement is based on solid research, and reflects the goodwill and constructive approach shown by all the parties."
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