Any suggestion that investment in UK wind energy is ‘grinding to a halt’ does not chime with reality
In a series of articles this week, you reported on some of the challenges faced by the wind energy industry (The wind war, 27 February-March 1). This did an excellent job of highlighting what the UK stands to lose – in terms of investment, jobs and energy security – if we don’t overcome these challenges and grasp the reins of this new industrial revolution. However, in places it also injected some uncertainty over the future of this crucial industry which does not chime with reality.
In particular, your front page subheading on 27 February wrongly stated: “Investment in wind energy grinds to a halt as companies doubt political will.” This year the UK has already benefited from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment pledged by multinational companies planning to create jobs across the country. Since January, Samsung has announced a £100m project in Scotland to develop its new offshore turbine at Fife Energy Park, which will employ up to 500 people. The wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has submitted a planning application to build a factory at Sheerness, Kent, which could create 2,000 jobs. Siemens wants to build a wind turbine factory in Hull, creating 700 jobs directly, and many more in the supply chain, when it opens. Samsung has also agreed a multimillion-pound deal to design and manufacture gearboxes for the new turbine. No “grinding to a halt” there.
You also stated that there are “concerns over the government’s commitment to wind energy”. The opposite is true. Although the industry is not complacent about recent backbench opposition, last month a No 10 spokesman said: “We need a low carbon infrastructure and onshore wind is a cost effective and valuable part of the diverse energy mix.” And this was backed up by deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.
In another article, you stated that “Turbines bring millions for rich landowners” and reported how the Prince of Wales would benefit from leases for offshore wind farms. Well, there are community-owned windfarms such as the Fintry Renewable Energy Enterprise near Stirling, where villagers earn tens of thousands of pounds for community projects.
Local people who host wind farms also reap financial benefits. The wind industry stipulates that communities must receive at least £1,000 per megawatt per year of wind energy installed. These benefit funds are handed over to local people so that they can decide how to spend that money. This is how residents in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, were able to afford solar panels for a sheltered housing scheme, children’s books for the local library, and energy-efficient glazing for a health centre. That’s why, as you reported with a new opinion poll, “a large majority of the public (60%) remains firmly in favour of wind energy”.