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Huhne’s Wind Obsession Threatens Liberal Democrats

A Liberal Democrat peer today warned of the “devastating” potential of wind farms to damage the landscape of Mid Wales. Lord Thomas of Gresford described the economic benefits of wind farms as a “total illusion” but Lib Dem energy and climate secretary Chris Huhne yesterday insisted that the the UK’s turbines are “here to stay” and will not be replaced by shale gas.

The peer urged his fellow Lib Dem’s government department to pay attention to high-profile protests against new wind farms.

He said: “Surely [the Department for Energy and Climate Change] will not ride roughshod over the united communities of Montgomeryshire, Shropshire and beyond? Which actual government minister will sign off approvals of these applications?

“Who will balance the antagonism of local people, the expressed hostility of their representatives, the obvious environmental considerations, the impact upon tourism and the local economy, against the expensive and limited capacity for generating electricity that these wind farms possess?

“The impact on the people and the beautiful countryside of Mid Wales and Shropshire will be devastating. Eight hundred of these structures in the area proposed is completely and wholly out of proportion.

“If localism means anything at all, the ruination of the hills should be taken by bodies accountable locally.”

Ann West, the chairman of the Cambrian Mountains Society, said people in Mid Wales were opposed to new turbines because they had how existing ones had transformed horizons.

She said: “People know what they look like and they don’t like them.”

The society is strongly opposed to proposals for a wind far near where Owain Glyndwr fought the battle of battle of Hyddgen in 1401 and is pressing for a change in Welsh Government planning policy so that Mid Wales will not become the preferred location for future developments.

Lord Thomas also attacked the regulations, stating: “In 2005, the Welsh Assembly Government issued Tan 8, the technical advice note meant to guide planning decisions. Tan 8 identified seven Strategic Search Areas as suitable for concentrated large-scale wind farm development, three of which were in Mid Wales.

“The focus is on Mid Wales because there are National Parks to north and south.”

Energy Secretary Mr Huhne said protestors had picketed his department and called for Britain to “tear down its wind farms” and instead exploit underground reserves of shale gas.

In a newspaper article today Mr Huhne said: “In the US, vast reserves of ‘unconventional’ shale gas have changed everything, cutting gas prices to half of European levels. Some therefore argue that we should abandon everything else and devote ourselves wholly to shale.

“But we cannot second-guess the market. Shale gas has not yet lit a single room in the UK, nor roasted a single Sunday lunch… As last week’s report on the Lancashire earthquakes showed, there remain issues to be addressed about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’.”

Safety concerns about shale gas extraction have already spurred campaigners to oppose drilling in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Mr Huhne sounded a strong sceptical note about the potential of shale to meet Britain’s energy needs.

He said: “The announcement by Cuadrilla Resources that there could be 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in the shale under Lancashire could, if the volumes are proven and the reserves recovered, change Britain’s energy market. But a golden age of cheap energy looks increasingly unlikely – and wind turbines are certainly here to stay.”

Wales Onlines, 9 November 2011