Page last updated at 00:34 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

RSPB calls for more UK wind farms

Wind turbines
Countries like Spain and Denmark use wind power far more than the UK

There should be a significant increase in the number of wind farms built onshore in the UK, the RSPB has said.

It called for an end to the "needless delays" that beset wind farm projects, after a study said more turbines could be built without harming wildlife.

It would be "disastrous" if the vast potential of wind power in the UK was wasted, the charity added.

Ministers said the planning process was being "streamlined" to encourage a mixture of on and offshore wind farms.

In 2007, just 2% of the UK's energy came from wind power, compared with 29% in Denmark, 20% in Spain and 15% in Germany.

'Sense of urgency'

A report for the RSPB, written by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, said that with an effective planning system, the UK could greatly increase onshore wind development without damaging nature conservation.

Ruth Davis, head of climate change policy at the RSPB, said it was in favour of such an expansion because of the "truly terrifying" impact that global warming was increasingly having on birds.

"Left unchecked, climate change threatens many species with extinction," she said.

"Yet that sense of urgency is not translating into actions on the ground to harness the abundant wind energy around us."

We must reduce the many needless delays that beset wind farm developments
Ruth Davis, RSPB

The RSPB called on the government to set firm regional and local targets for developing wind energy, and give more guidance to councils on how to deal with planning applications.

Currently, many become bogged down in local politics at the expense of national efforts to tackle climate change, it said.

In order to protect wildlife, the RSPB argued, there must be a program of mapping to identify which areas should be earmarked for wind turbines and which should be avoided in order to protect habitats.

Areas with large numbers of nesting seabirds or those which are home to rare birds of prey should be spared, it said.

Much more effort must also be made to win the support of local communities, the charity said, for example, by offering cheaper energy to people in the immediate vicinity of a wind farm.

Investment in local wildlife projects would also help smooth the planning process, it added.

Renewables target

"We must reduce the many needless delays that beset wind farm developments," Ms Davis said.

We need a mixture of all forms of renewable energy
Spokesman, Department of Energy and Climate Change

"This report shows that if we get it right, the UK can produce huge amounts of clean energy without time-consuming conflicts and harm to our wildlife.

"Get it wrong and people may reject wind power. That would be disastrous."

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the government was committed to a national increase in the use of renewable energy sources.

"To do that, we need a mixture of all forms of renewable energy, including both onshore and offshore wind farms," he said.

"The Planning Act has been passed and that sets out a more streamlined planning process, but it is one which still allows the local community to have their say."

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