New wind turbine drop 'alarming'

Wind turbine A smaller percentage of planning applications for turbines are being approved

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The number of wind turbines being refused planning permission by local authorities is "alarming", according to a renewable energy industry body.

RenewableUK said approvals fell from 58% of the applied-for capacity in the year 2008-09 and 57% in 2009-10, to 39% in 2010-11.

This was the lowest level for approvals since 2006.

England's approval rate was running far lower, at 26%, which RenewableUK called "a critically low level".

RenewableUK found UK approvals were taking longer - on average from 24 to 33 months.

The report also found approvals were easier for smaller wind farm applications than for large ones and that there was a slowing of the pipeline of projects in the planning process.

The largest wind farm applications - above 50MW - are handled by central government - UK and Scottish.

While there are fewer of them, their approval provides much greater capacity.

The number of wind farm applications handled in Scotland at a local level fell from 40 to 34 in the year to June.

Total onshore wind approvals in 2010-11 ran to 195 MW which was above the previous year, at 186MW, despite fewer projects being approved.

The number of wind farm projects approved in Scotland fell by 16 percentage points, from 78% in 2008-09 to 62% in 2010-11.

The report also expressed concern that investment in Germany could see focus taken away from Britain's rapid offshore expansion of renewable power.

However the annual 'state of the industry' report found the first half of this year saw a sharp rise, of 70%, in the output of wind turbines, due to higher wind speeds.

Wind energy topped 10% of the UK's total generation for the first time on 6 September.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK, said: "The overall level of deployment is encouraging, but that is being driven by the historic backlog of projects finally coming through the system. The number of planning refusals of new projects by local authorities is alarming".

She said the refusal of some offshore wind farm planning applications sets an "worrying precedent".

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