Page last updated at 07:20 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

Danish wind of change on energy


Community wind farm use urged

BBC Wales' Environment Correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd looks at the contrast between who invests, owns and benefits from wind energy in Denmark, compared to Wales, and other problems which may face the wind industry.

Tall wind turbines usually provoke two types of reactions - either you don't mind them, or you loathe them.

As the UK wind industry is celebrating a never-before achieved 4 gigawatts of installed wind energy capacity, the sector now claims that wind energy powers over 2.3 million homes in the UK - and claims it saves 6 million tonnes of coal annually.

Compared to Denmark, though Wales and the UK has a way to go, despite a relatively flat few years for the Danish wind sector.

The real difference between Wales and Denmark though is not the 500 or so turbines on and offshore in Wales, or the 5,000 currently working in Denmark, but who owns them, and who pockets the profit.

According to Hans Christian Soerensen, a member of the Danish Wind Owners Association, 20% of the Danes' electricity comes from the wind and by 2020 the target is to have 50% of its electricity from wind.

Hans Christian Soerensen
Hans Christian Soerensen said the Danish wind farm system differed to Wales'

The owners association is independent of the turbine manufacturers and their businesses in the UK.

Mr Soerensen is involved with two co-operative wind farm businesses in Copenhagen.

The 12-turbine Lynetten field - where I met him - and where four of whose turbines are owned by some 900 people, and the offshore Middlegrunden, literally the "middle ground".

The 20 turbines on this bank out to sea between Denmark and Sweden are also part-owned by some 1,500 people.

In Denmark, people who live within five kilometres of wind farms are offered a chance to invest in them and in time benefit financially from the revenue of their shares.

He said: "If there's not enough to finance [the wind farm], it will be taken over by the remaining part of the local county. The local counties will be part owner."

New wind farms in Wales this year are the Norwegian-owned Alltwalis in Carmarthenshire, and the offshore Rhyl Flats, currently Wales' largest wind farm, off the north Wales coast.

Geraint Davies
Geraint Davies set up a wind farm with some neighbours

Owner RWE npower, also plans the much bigger 750 MW Gwynt y Mor site further out to sea.

But not all of Wales' wind farms are privately owned by multinational companies.

Geraint Davies is the enterprising farmer, who with a few neighbours, built Moelogan wind farm.

He said it was not for specifically for environmental or energy reasons but as a business venture for his farm.

Mr Davies said: "It's got to make a difference to the local economy, there's no two ways about it. If we turn things round then all the better for Wales and for the local economy.

"It also helps, in the planning system, if people see that maybe there's a greater advantage to the area where people have to live with the turbines."

A further nine turbines have been erected and are on line this year, overlooking the Conwy Valley. Despite the lengthy and slow planning process in Wales, Geraint Davies is planning a new 67 MW site in mid Wales.

John Etherington
John Ethrington doesn't believe wind farms can supply enough energy

But the biggest wind farms in Wales, all those over 50MW, are approved by the UK government, not the assembly in Cardiff. Most wind energy here is financed by large energy companies, which also bank the profits.

Just like in Denmark, not everyone is enthusiastic about wind farms, whether local or company-owned.

Some think the turbines are a scam, and that there are "reasons for rejecting wind power as a large scale source of electricity," writes John Etherington who has published a book on wind technology.

The Wind Farm Scam is already being reprinted, and the former reader of ecology at University of Wales in Cardiff argues the biggest folly about wind farms is people believing them to be efficient, and capable of supplying enough energy in future.

He said: "It doesn't work like that. The electricity is not there continuously."

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