Experts hit at 'not enough wind' claim

Claims that millions of pounds are being wasted on putting wind turbines in areas without enough wind were rubbished by experts in East Anglia last night.

Claims that millions of pounds are being wasted on putting wind turbines in areas without enough wind were rubbished by experts in East Anglia last night.

Michael Jefferson, chairman of the policies committee of the World Renewable Energy Network (Wren), said he was worried that many were badly sited and poorly performing.

He also told the BBC Radio 4 programme Costing the Earth that he felt some money-hungry firms exaggerated the amount of wind energy a development would supply to gain government incentives.

But experts from UEA and the head of wind development at Ecotricity, which operates turbines including those at Swaffham, described the claims as “laughable” - and Mr Jefferson's own organisation distanced themselves from his comments.

“If you take an area from Lincolnshire down through East Anglia into Essex, across to Hertfordshire and up the central spine of England, there are only five schemes achieving load factors of 30pc or more,” said Mr Jefferson, a former chief executive of Shell, who said he was in favour of wind energy.

“That's just five out of 25. We should be putting our money where the wind is and that is quite often not where the development pressure is.”

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A load factor is the average amount of wind in a particular spot measured throughout the year.

But Keith Tovey, from the CRed carbon reduction campaign, said his own study told a different story.

“Preliminary analysis of figures from April last year to May this year show, apart from a number of small turbines, that very few are actually operating under 20pc. Indeed, in the 12 months ending January 2006 the four key ones in this area were actually operating at 40-49pc a lot of the time,” said Dr Tovey, who said the average in Germany was 18pc which has more than 10 times the number of turbines than in the UK.

He said although there had been problems at Scroby Sands, even with a relatively poor performance it still provided sufficient power for two thirds of the household demand in Norwich.

The government is trying to reach an EU target of 20pc of all electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

But the position of wind turbines is a controversial subject, with strong local opposition almost wherever they are planned.

In Marshland St James, near Wisbech a test mast was destroyed in the wake of anger at plans for a wind farm in the area.

However, Matt Partridge, from Ecotricity, said: “To question the output of UK wind projects is laughable. Our colleagues in Europe look enviously at the fantastic wind speeds we have in the UK - 40pc of the European wind resource no less. The real question is why are we wasting the excellent, natural advantage we have in wind energy.”

Ali Sayigh, director-general of Wren, said he was “outraged” at Mr Jefferson's comments.

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