As the Government last night appeared to relax its targets on renewable energy, experts in the North-East have pointed to alternatives to wind farms in the countryside.
WIND power is not the only answer to the Government’s renewable energy problem, according to the North-East’s climate change experts.
Despite a warning from energy groups that the UK is unlikely to tackle climate change without more wind farms, scientists from across the region have insisted there are plenty of alternatives.
Their words have come after planners at Berwick Council rejected a 10-turbine application on Tuesday.
And while most of the region’s growing renewable energy sector supports wind turbines, alternatives are being lined up because of the growing objections to the turbines.
Steve Wilson, Director of Wind and Marine at the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland, said the argument for on-shore wind turbines only succeeds because of the Government’s time constraints.
He said: “Are on shore wind turbines the only answer? It all depends on when you set the renewable energy deadline.
“If you want something over the next few years then yes, they are already having an impact. But if you want to extend that deadline and use off-shore technology then you have a much more efficient renewable energy source.
“The next big step, especially in the UK, is off-shore energy development. It’s a different environment that carries more risk, but if we get it right the rewards are greater.”
Many North-East scientists agree that the Government’s target of providing up to 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 has led to wind turbines being viewed as the only option. But efforts to meet a further Government target – reducing CO2 emissions by 60% before 2050 – is already on course in the North-East.
A new power plant is to be set up in Teesside which will use carbon capturing technology to save more CO2 emissions in one year than all the UK’s wind turbines put together and there are outline plans for a second plant to be built in the North-East.
Newcastle University professor of energy Dermot Roddy, a dedicated pro-wind campaigner, said the region could lead the world in developing the off-shore technology.
“Most of the turbines used are on-shore, but the growth area is off shore and we are developing that technology and chasing those jobs. If we try to find some common ground, for example in off-shore wind farms, then we can be Europe’s lead authority on this.
“Another big part of what we are doing is in biomass.
“The biggest source of renewable energy is biofuels. We have the biggest biomass power stations in the UK and are recognised across Europe as a lead authority on this.
“So there are other options, and I say that as a big supporter of wind power.”
Long term planning for the Government’s energy targets places even more emphasis on alternatives to both fossil fuels and wind farms.
And again the research into this is led by the North-East.
Northumbria University energy professor Nicola Pearsall is helping to lead the way on photovoltaics – turning sunlight into electricity.
She said: “There comes a point, in the not too distant future, where you have installed all the wind farms you can, you have given up as much land as possible to biofuel generation without using up too much space for food production, and you reach a peak in availability for renewable energy locations. When that happens you will still have of opportunity for solar energy, and that’s what we have to plan for if we are serious about this.
“By 2030 and onwards solar energy has the potential to be the main energy source. There is no one answer, wind farms are not the only answer and neither, if we’re honest, are photovoltaics. But in terms of local power PV could provide a lot more.”
Brown committed to wind farms despite lower targets
PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has committed the Government to backing more wind farm proposals – despite watering down renewable energy targets.
Yesterday Mr Brown warned there were some "difficult decisions" due as the country continued to seek more of its energy from renewable sources.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s question time, Mr Brown said the Government wished to extend the number of on- shore wind turbines.
And he asked the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to support plans to build more wind turbines – plans many rural Tory politicians have opposed.
The announcement came despite Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks revealing that the UK is likely to source only 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – and not the 20% required to meet EU targets. Mr Wicks was speaking after documents leaked to a national newspaper suggested boosting wind, wave and solar energy from the current UK level of 2% to just 9% by 2020 would cost around £4bn.
Mr Wicks stressed that the Brussels deal did not specify that all EU members had to meet the 20% level, as long as it was achieved across Europe as a whole.
He said: "We’re negotiating with the European Commission, but it’s got to be a considerable figure. It’s got to be somewhere between 10% and 15%."
Mr Wicks also claimed Britain was contributing heavily to the fight against climate change in other areas.
"At the end of the day, renewables is a means to an end. The end is bringing down carbon emissions."
North-East MEP Fiona Hall accused the Government of turning its back on plans to reduce climate change. She said: "Labour is ratting on a commitment on renewables that it made only months ago.
"If we are to get climate change under control over the next few years, we need to massively boost our energy efficiency and use more renewable energy. There is no alternative.
"Even if plans went ahead to build more nuclear power stations they would be already far too late – 2020 at the earliest – and as revealed yesterday, the nuclear industry continues to be plagued with technical problems. Tony Blair signed up to an energy deal which promised 20% of our energy from renewables by 2020.
"Now Gordon Brown is wriggling. It seems he doesn’t understand how important climate change is. It is an abject failure of leadership on the most important issue facing this and future generations."
‘Do more to tackle global warming’
GOVERNMENT energy targets could be achieved 25 years ahead of schedule if councillors do more to tackle global warming, it was last night claimed.
Local government think-tank NLGN is calling for council leaders to make bold decisions to help meet the 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
James Hulme, spokesman for the think-tank, said some of the controversial measures proposed would need strong leadership.
He said: "We understand that some suggestions will not be as easily adopted as others.
"But if you look at the London example, Ken Livingstone, voters have rewarded him for his directness and his honesty when he has introduced measures such as congestion charging.
"If the Government were to introduce financial incentives for those authorities that introduced such measures and penalised those that did not, it would help."
The think-tank has called for councils to consider converting landfill waste into electricity and introducing road pricing.
The report’s author James McGregor said: "Local government can take responsibility for reducing carbon emissions.
"Our research reveals that if the performance of the best local authorities can be matched, councils can reduce CO2 production by 60% by 2025.
"This is 25 years before central government expects to reach this level of saving. This is a powerful offer that should not be ignored."
A spokesman for the Association of North-East Councils welcomed the report.
He said: "Local government has a real opportunity to drive action on climate change mitigation and adaptation, leading by example and through its own practices and the services it delivers.
"Through the Association, all 25 councils in the North-East have now signed the Nottingham Declaration, demonstrating their commitment to take action on climate change.
"We know that by acting together, councils in the region can have a major impact on helping cut carbon emissions and have a positive impact on our communities."
Turbines not the answer but part of the solution
WIND turbine producers have insisted the UK cannot meet its energy commitments without turbines.
Your Energy, which has plans to build seven wind turbines in Northumberland, told The Journal that "the only technology available right now to generate large amounts of renewable electricity is through wind turbines."
Regional development agency One NorthEast have also backed the controversial turbines.
Andrew Williamson, senior specialist in renewable energy, said wind turbine technology could bring in thousands more jobs to the North-East, many more than might be lost to the Northumberland tourism industry.
He said: "This doesn’t mean wind farms all over the region, it means the North-East playing a huge part in the supply chain as we build off- shore wind farms in the South- East and in mainland Europe.
"Yes, wind turbines are not the answer to the energy gap but they are a substantial part of the solution. This is a phenomenal opportunity which we cannot underestimate.
"Over the next decade we will see billions and billions of pounds invested the technology and in businesses here. We are already leading the way and that means jobs, potentially thousands of jobs.
"I don’t see wind farms as a threat to businesses in Northumberland, I see them as an incredible opportunity."