The Midland company planning to build a £1.3 billion offshore wind farm which could provide more than one per cent of the nation’s energy is poised to submit planning permission for a key part of its site in Norfolk.
As the Copenhagen Summit on climate change draws to a close, Warwick Energy is putting in for planning permission for the onshore element of its proposal for up to 168 wind turbines supplying up to 560MW of renewable energy by 2013 off the Norfolk coast.
Warwick Energy is an experienced player in the renewables market – it has also been closely involved in the Thanet Offshore Wind Farm which will be world’s largest operational wind farm when it is built next year.
But the company has run into opposition to its latest proposals from Norfolk locals in the village of Little Dunham, near Swaffham, where it is hoping to locate a sub-station in a nearby field.
There is likely to be heated debate about the planning application for this element of the project, which is due to be put in to Breckland and North Norfolk district councils some time in the next few days.
Residents are worried about the appearance of the site and its effects on traffic although Warwick Energy has emphasised the sub-station will take up 22 acres of the 42-acre proposed site and said it would be “sensitively designed and sensitively screened”.
Warwick Energy director Mark Petterson said: “There won’t be any impact on the local community and when they see the full application I am hoping that their fears will be allayed.”
Dudgeon Offshore Wind, the subsidiary of Warwick Energy behind the project, is still waiting for the go-ahead for the offshore part of the site, having put in a consent application to the Department of Energy and Climate Change for the 35 sq km offshore site earlier this year.
The company is also seeking planning approval to lay 45 km of buried cables – which would be the longest buried high voltage cable route in the UK – to feed the electricity generated by the offshore turbines in to the National Grid.
The wind farm, which has the potential to provide enough power for every house in Norfolk, could play a part in helping the country meet its target to obtain 15 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Despite the Government’s ambitions, many power companies are finding it hard to convince people living in the localities where both offshore and onshore wind farms are proposed to accept wind energy generation near their homes.
Earlier this year the British Wind Energy Association revealed local council approvals of wind farm applications have fallen to a new low of just 25 per cent, down from 63 per cent in 2007.
As global leaders have been meeting in Copenhagen to thrash out a deal on carbon emissions reductions which will put renewed pressure on governments worldwide to embrace clean energy generation, the question of how to convince communities of the merits of wind farms has been the subject of intense debate.
Recognising the obstacles currently in the way of renewables planning, the Government recently vowed to overhaul the system in order to cut red tape for environmentally-friendly projects.
But the Conservatives have gone one step further.
They say that if they were to take power next year, the party would offer financial incentives to local people living near wind farms involving business rates, representing average annual payments of around £72,000.
Here in the West Midlands, several proposed wind farms have been shot down under fierce opposition from residents.
German-based Prowind is planning to erect four wind turbines on land between the villages of Haunton and Clifton Campville, near Tamworth.
The company is currently carrying out a detailed environmental impact assessment of the site but the plans are already proving controversial.
Earlier this year Severn Trent’s ambitions to build a three-turbine wind farm at Aston Hall Farm, in Staffordshire, were derailed when planners refused permission for the company to build a wind monitoring mast.
And plans to put up seven 360ft turbines near Market Drayton, in Shropshire, submitted by Nuon UK, were rejected following a public inquiry.
The West Midlands Renewable Energy Strategy sets a target for regional electricity supply through wind energy by 2010, which equates to 408MW of renewable energy.
So far only 183MW is in place.