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Series of small planning successes -- Permits for 60 MW

A spate of recent planning permit successes for wind projects would appear to signal an upturn in wind's favour in Britain's tortuous consenting process. Even though almost as many wind turbines have been turned down as approved over the past few months, nearly 60 MW is now going ahead for completion this year and next.

In Wales, Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and Novera Energy have consent for a wind farm of 17, 660 kW turbines at Mynydd Clogau in Powys. RES lodged its planning application in 1996, but despite no local objections the project went to public inquiry to be considered alongside two other proposed wind farms in Powys. On the planning inspector's recommendation, the National Assembly for Wales refused the other two projects -- 42 turbines proposed by National Wind Power at Cwm Llwyd and PowerGen Renewables' 16 turbines at Nant Carfan. The inspector said the cumulative visual impact of three projects would harm the landscape unacceptably.

RES expects work on building its 11 MW project to start in 2003, but the delays are already eating into a 15 year Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) contract, due to expire around 2014. "It's a sad reflection of the problems the British wind industry has been experiencing that it has taken this long. Wind power's true potential -- in terms of job creation and emissions reduction -- has yet to be realised here because of delay and inconsistencies in planning policy, says Ian Mays of RES. He is more optimistic about the future, "particularly if the government speeds up implementation of regional targets for renewable energy."

PERMIT for 3.2 MW turbine

At Lowestoft in the county of Suffolk in eastern England, SLP Energy's application to build a single 3.2 MW turbine at Ness Point has been approved by Waveney council, which at the same time turned down Next Generation's plans for a 1.8 MW turbine. Local company SLP claims its turbine -- at the UK's most easterly point -- will be a prototype for offshore machines and will lead to the company expanding into the wind energy market, creating up to thousands of jobs in the area.

According to Waveney planning officer Andy Norton, councillors were faced with a choice between the two projects. The Ministry of Defence had objected to both turbines, which would have been only 160 metres apart, because together they would cause confusion on its radar screens. "Because of the jobs potential of the SLP scheme, there was not much difficulty in making the choice," says Norton, adding the council would have liked to see both turbines built and would be willing to discuss with Next Generation an alternative site. Meanwhile, Stroud based Next Generation has appealed the negative decision.

Further north, Wind Prospect and TXU have been given the go-ahead for nine turbines totalling 15 MW at Stags Holt, near March in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Work on the NFFO-contracted project will start in the autumn for completion by spring 2003. Local authority approval of the wind farm by seven votes to one was a "vote of confidence" in the project, says Colin Palmer from Wind Prospect. "We have been working on it for many years and it is good to see a positive outcome from our consultative and responsive approach."

In Scotland, plans by ScottishPower for 35 wind turbines totalling 29 MW at Cruach Mhor in Argyll have been granted consent by Argyll & Bute Council. The £20 million wind farm is being developed to meet the demand for renewable power under Britain's new renewables obligation, which requires electricity retailers to buy 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2010. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is driving a major program of investments in renewables, says ScottishPower's Alan Mortimer. "With further projects totalling over 450 MW already in the planning process -- more than twice as much as any other UK utility -- ScottishPower ought to be well positioned to meet the required reductions in emissions over the coming years."

ScottishPower claims the Cruach Mhor wind farm will be out of view of almost all the surrounding settlements and roads due to the landscape and forestry. Local companies are now being invited to tender for up to £3 million in contracts for the project. Construction is expected to last 12 months, with the wind farm becoming operational in late 2003.

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