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Slow on wind projects, Wales no ‘green Celtic tiger’

1045051_windmillsWales might fail to become “a Green Celtic Tiger Economy” because it’s not moving quickly enough to develop wind farms, according to the Welsch renewable business body BWEA Cymru.

A report from BWEA Cymru — “Wind energy in Wales: State of the Industry” expressed concern over the lack of progress with wind farms in Wales and pointed to the low level of approval for Welsh wind-energy projects.

“Wales is missing out on its potential to be a Green Celtic Tiger Economy,” said Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of the BWEA (British Wind Energy Association. “The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) wants Wales to be self sufficient in renewable energy by 2028. That bold vision requires the right political decisions to approve planning applications on the ground. As it stands today, decisions are just not being made.”

Scotland and Northern Ireland are set to meet their targets for wind energy, but Wales will miss its own 2010 target for installing an extra 800 megawatts of wind capacity. Less than 250 megawatts have been approved since the target was set in 2005, and barely 100 megawatts have actually been built.

The report exposes the backlog in granting planning permission for wind farms by local councils in Wales. The report recommends that the Welsh Assembly Government makes a renewed effort to get the councils to shorten the time they take to determine approval, which on average takes over a year.

WAG has stated it’s committed to revising the renewable energy targets in the TAN8 planning document, with a new Energy Strategy due later this year. But raising targets will not be sufficient unless the problems resulting in the failure to reach existing targets is addressed, according to the report.

In the longer term, the Forestry Commission of Wales is releasing land that could support up to 700 megawatts of wind farm capacity. The bulk of these sites will be decided under a new fast track regime by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) set up by the UK Government under the 2008 Planning Act. Under the Act, schemes of over 50 megawatts will be decided by the IPC, while the councils will remain responsible for applications smaller than 50 megawatts.

New sites for offshore wind farms are currently being identified in the Irish and Celtic seas. Supplying these could give a long-term boost to the Welsh manufacturing base, with the potential for thousands of new jobs and millions of pounds of investments.

“Wales should seize the opportunity to revive its manufacturing base and set an example for the rest of the UK and Europe by embracing a clean energy revolution and say YES to wind,” said Llywelyn Rhys, head of BWEA Cymru.

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