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British group pans wind farm compensation

Jan. 7, 2013 at 12:02 AM   |   Comments

PLYMOUTH, England, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Environmentalists in Britain's West Country say a government proposal to compensate local communities for new onshore wind farms won't quell protests.

Bob Barfoot, North Devon chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, told the (Plymouth, England) Western Morning News last week opposition to the "blighting" effects of wind turbines in southwestern England won't be mollified by increased payments to local cities and towns.

Proposals from Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change would require wind farm developers to pay a minimum of $8,000 per a year into a "community trust" for each megawatt of generating capacity they install -- significantly more than the current industry standard of $1,600 per megawatt, the newspaper said.

A typical onshore wind turbine with a capacity of 4 megawatts thus would funnel $32,000 per year into local communities.

Critics, however, have derided the idea as "bribery for blight" as Britain seeks to boost the total of its energy mix from onshore wind above its current 3 percent.

Barfoot said the higher levels of compensation, which he said are meant to "sterilize" environmental and local planning committee opposition to new wind farms, won't change to minds of those who live near the turbines.

"Developers already do this but the amount has been increased to entice people into lowering their resistance," he said. "No amount of money is going to help you if you have got a huge turbine dominating your property.

"If a parish council is offered ($112,000) by a developer, those living furthest away from the site may be supportive and those nearby would oppose it no matter how much was on offer -- it will cause a rift."

In September, British Energy Secretary Ed Davey launched a "call for evidence" to gauge the true costs and benefits that come from the heavy subsidies handed out to onshore wind farms.

Part of that effort is to counter the protests with an examination of "the financial, social and environmental benefits from hosting onshore wind farms."

"Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable," he said. "We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall.

"We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them."

Davey said Britain has "got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits."

British Member of Parliament Caroline Flint, the opposition Labor Party's shadow energy secretary, told the Western Morning News the scheme amounts to "bribery" of local officials that mainly benefits the country's handful of big energy companies.

"In Germany, 65 percent of wind farms, solar farms and other renewable energy generation is owned by local communities who get to keep all the benefits, not just a small percentage," she said.

"That would be a much sounder system for local people and for Britain."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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