Dozens of wind farms could be rebuilt with turbines twice the height of existing ones under plans to keep sites operating for at least another 20 years.
More than 750 turbines at 60 sites are coming to the end of their operational lives, with less than five years remaining of the 20-year period for which they have planning permission. They could be dismantled and the landscape restored, but the wind industry is lobbying to be allowed to replace them with much more powerful turbines.
The existing turbines are mostly 50m to 60m tall. The new ones would be up to 120m and produce up to eight times more power.
The taller turbines would increase the total capacity of the 60 sites from 440 megawatts to 1,300 megawatts and produce enough power for 800,000 homes, according to a report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a think tank that supports renewable energy. Wind farms could be rebuilt with fewer turbines, it said, as with the first commercial one in the UK at Delabole in Cornwall, where the ten turbines installed in 1991 have been replaced by four nearly twice as tall.
Critics say that the visual blight from taller turbines is worse even if there are fewer of them.
John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, which opposes wind farms, said that rebuilding dozens of wind farms with taller turbines would result in “greatly increased landscape and visual impact and in most cases significantly worse noise”. He added: “This is a complete non-starter. The surest way of saving the consumer money is to let these dogs die a natural death.”