United Kingdom

United Kingdom

UK focus: The north-south divide

Any topic as contentious as the siting of wind power is bound to be the subject of claim and counter-claim.

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One that periodically surfaces is that planning permission is in fact being given for ample amounts of turbines if one aggregates the UK total, and that the government target of 14 GW from onshore wind by 2020 will therefore be met without great difficulty.

This irks the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) because the planning problem is at its worst in England, the most populous of the four countries in the union and the one where most of its members wish to build. Eighty-four per cent of the UK population lives in England, and all but a handful of the UK's major cities are located within its borders.

It therefore make sense to site wind turbines as near as possible to where this demand is rather than in distant locations from which it is less efficient to draw power, not least because the National Grid was designed to transmit power to outlying regions, not from them.

According to BWEA, in 2008 there were applications made to build 53 wind farms in England with a total capacity of 602 MW, and just 22 in Scotland, but with a 764 MW total capacity. Wales and Northern Ireland had 11 submissions each, totalling 459 MW. Actual planning permissions were granted for 29 projects each in England and Scotland last year, but the 1601 MW capacity permitted in Scotland totalled more than three times England's permitted 471 MW capacity.

There were 27 planning refusals in England for projects that would have generated 292 MW and only nine refusals in Scotland, but the latter would have given 1065 MW. "The problem is that, to hit the target, the rest of the capacity needed must come from England because there are now fewer available sites in Scotland," says BWEA communications director Charles Anglin. "And it is in England that we are getting a 50% rejection rate on planning applications from councils."

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