Controversial on-shore wind farms are here to stay because they are the cheapest form of renewable energy available, according to the leader of the Green Party.
But Greens would let local communities rather than big business build wind farms - and keep the profits to spend on local services.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was speaking to The Journal as she prepares for the party’s annual conference next month.
Greens have enjoyed a surge in support, beating the Liberal Democrats in the European Elections in May, and party membership has grown by 28% so far this year alone.
And supporters of the Greens point out that their fortunes have risen without the type of free publicity enjoyed by UKIP, which has been in the media spotlight this year.
The number of on-shore windfarms in Northumberland has sparked fierce debate. Most recently, Energiekontor UK Ltd’s plans for five 126m turbines at Fenrother, near Morpeth faced objections with an action group set up to oppose it submitting a 71,000-word document, backed by more than 1,600 letters.
The scheme was rejected by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
But Ms Bennett said more wind farms were needed.
While off-shore windfarms could play a role, and could become a key industry in the North East, they could not entirely replace on-shore wind farms, she said.
“The reality is that on-shore wind is now the cheapest renewable we’ve got,” she said. “Off-shore has enormous potential to develop an industry that can then become an export industry.
“We can use the skills and knowledge we have coming out of the dying North Sea Oil industry, and transfer those skills across.
“But on-shore is still cheap, affordable and pretty easy to do.
“The key factor, and what we want to encourage, is community owned on-shore wind and other forms of renewables.”
If communities were able to able to own and receive the profits from wind farms, to spend on local schools or other services, then there would be far more support for them, she said.
Ms Bennett also highlighted the need to cut energy consumption entirely, including by making homes more energy-efficient.
“The great forgotten Cinderella of energy policy is energy conservation,” she said. “We have some of the worst housing in Western Europe.”
Energiekontor’s wind farm plans were opposed by two local parish councils, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Northumberland National Park, Morpeth Civic Society and the Northumberland Badger Group.
And last year the Bishop of Newcastle called for a halt to new wind farms on the North East landscape.
Policies set to be discussed at the Green Party conference include plans for a wealth tax of 1% or 2% for people with assets of £3m or more. It would mean they paid £30,000 to £60,000 each year in new taxes.
Greens also want to tax out-of-town supermarkets, with the cash going to support local businesses.