Onshore turbines: A new policy wind of change?
- 6 June 2012
- From the section England
Like the church spire and the electricity pylon, they've fast become a 21st Century landmark of the English countryside.
There are now an estimated 3,200 onshore wind turbines, many of them in so-called wind farms.
But does a decision by Lincolnshire County Council indicate a significant brake on further expansion?
The Conservative-run council has drawn up tough new planning guidelines to curb having any more wind turbines.
Forest of turbines?
Lincolnshire has been a dream location for the turbine operators.
The county is flat, rural and - thanks to its north sea coastline - it's pretty windy.
But Cllr Martin Hill, the county council's leader, has had enough.
He says there are already 75, and dozens more turbine applications are in the planning pipeline.
"Our county is fast becoming a forest of wind turbines. Our planning guidance is an attempt to put an end to that," he said.
But will other councils follow suit?
The contrast with neighbouring Nottinghamshire couldn't be greater. It's handling just six turbine planning applications, four of those for wind farms.
As a spokesman told me: "We are planning no guidance on wind turbines at the moment and have no plans for the foreseeable future."
Lincolnshire's decision will be controversial.
It's not a planning authority as such. It's the local district councils that handle each planning application.
Refusal on the basis of the county's guidance will spark costly legal appeals.
The Green Party is angry.
It cites a recent opinion poll that claims seven in ten people actually want more onshore wind turbines, not less.
The Lib Dems will also be looking very closely at whether Lincolnshire becomes a standard bearer for other Tory-led shire councils.
The issue increasingly goes to the heart of Conservative opposition to onshore wind turbines.
There's been back bench pressure in the Commons on David Cameron.
He organised a letter signed by 100 Conservative MPs that urged the Prime Minister to rethink the coalition's whole approach.
"In these financially straightened times, we think it is unwise to make consumers pay, through taxpayer subsidy, for the inefficient and intermittent energy production that typifies onshore wind turbines," said the Daventry MP in his letter.
The Treasury, always on the lookout for new budget savings, may agree.
But what about the Liberal Democrat who is the coalition's Energy and Climate Change Secretary?
Could Ed Davey have some political wriggle room?
I've seen figures that show Britain may soon exceed its targets for renewable energy from onshore wind turbines.
According to energy lobbyists Renewable UK, a modern turbine can generate enough electricity to power 1,400 homes for a year.
Existing wind turbines and projects already approved will surpass the government's current renewable targets, according to some energy experts.
If the onshore political wind is blowing in a new direction, it could well be coming from Lincolnshire.