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There's a wind farm coming to a place near you

Paul Hudson | 07:08 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I've been filming a piece for Look North looking at wind power which you can see tonight. I was surprised to find out when I was doing my research that despite the fact that the Pennines are one of the windiest places in England, there has been a distinct lack of wind farm developments. In fact, in West Yorkshire, the last wind farm was built 16 years ago in 1993.

Yorkshire has a poor record when it comes to meeting its renewable obligations as set out in government targets. In fact it is the second worst region in the country having reached only 39% of its 2010 target, with only Cornwall doing worse.

But this is surely going to change. The government have set legally binding targets for Carbon dioxide emission cuts by 2020. And to do this, it wants 30% of all our electricity to come from renewables by 2020, compared with only 6% now.

I spoke to the department of Energy and climate change about how this is expected to be achieved a few weeks ago.

It turns out that the government's chosen main renewable source will be from wind as it is, according to them, proven. It means that by 2020 roughly 8000 new turbines will have to erected, evenly split onshore and offshore. There will also be a new guide published next year which will highlight where the best places in England are for placing such wind farms.

As I understand it, Pennine areas, amongst other parts of the country, are likely to be highlighted as good for wind power. But because the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District are protected as national parks, it may be that Pennine areas of West Yorkshire have to shoulder the burden.

There can be no doubt that the government are frustrated by the number of planning applications that are turned down. That could be about to change, as the government has powers to overrule local planners. A test case is likely to be heard in Darrington, West Yorkshire, in Spring next year. This proposed wind farm was turned down by Wakefield planners; but it has now been 'called in' by central government, and the final decision will rest with the secretary of state for the environment. One thing's for sure: If the government are to reach their legal target, local councils will have to stop rejecting so many wind farm developments.

Critics of wind power say it's just too unreliable. Peak electricity demand is often in mid winter with very low temperatures when we all have our heating on full; or during summer heatwaves when air conditioning units are switched on. Both of these types of weather occur during periods of high pressure, when winds are light, and when turbines barely produce any electricity at all.

But supporters have pointed to recent figures from Spain when on the 9th November during a 5 hour period a record breaking 53% of all the countries electricity came from their wind farms, in a country that is far less windy than ours. That's the same as the output from 11 nuclear power stations. Spain's record on renewables are impressive. By the end of the year 20% of all its power will come from renewables, compared with only 6% in our country: Ironic when you consider the UK is one of the windiest in Europe.

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