The Government today hit back at critics of onshore wind power, releasing a report which showed the industry created thousands of jobs and generated millions of pounds for the economy - but hold on a minute isn’t this money into the pockets of a few landowners, developers and foreign investors which is raised from us as Green taxes?
The joint study of 18 wind farms across the country by the industry and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) claimed communities benefited from onshore wind turbines to the tune of £84 million in 2011, with 1,100 local jobs supported by the sector. One in three local jobs were in operating and maintaining the turbines, providing long term employment. But hold on another minute is this nothing more than a report produced by a pressure group, saying exactly what it wanted to say?
The dubious report also said wind farms benefited local people through schemes which pay residents for hosting turbines (which must be pretty galling to those residents having turbines imposed on them by neighbouring landowners), community ownership and investment in infrastructure. In total, the research by BiGGAR Economics found onshore wind farms supported 8,600 jobs and were worth £548 million to the UK in 2011.
Having worked with many residents in their fight against on-shore wind farm developers in the East Riding of Yorkshire I can say this is typical of the spin and unrealistic best case scenarios put forward by the Renewables Industry, if only the turbines we see constructed so close to residences spun anywhere half as much!
The jobs that could be created in the on-shore wind industry can also be created in other parts of the renewable energy sector and supply chain - it is therefore disingenuous of the industry to lead the public to believe that jobs can only be created in the wind sector.
Instead of the rush towards on-shore wind we instead need to see more balance in the renewable sector and investment in other technologies such as wave and tidal power, which can be more predictable and reliable, and equally create jobs. The potential with off-shore wind is much more sustainable as the wind is more constant.
The pay-outs to local communities for local projects is certainly welcome and can benefit the communities around a wind farm, but for many, especially those living within a few hundred meters of some of the largest 125m high turbines it is seen as a cynical attempt at bribery, and does absolutely nothing to compensate for the negative impact on their quality of life, visual amenity or thousands of pounds wiped off their property values.
Whilst the report claims the majority of the money generated during the development and operating phases of on-shore wind farms stays in the UK, more than half of construction spend goes abroad, highlighting the value of developing a home-grown supply chain. This is far from clear, and there is nothing in the report to indicate neither how much of the investment comes from foreign investors nor how much of the profits (raised from green taxes on all of us) leaves the country.
The wind farm developers need to become more open and honest, be realistic about what the technology can achieve and the jobs that can be created – and our politicians need to learn that there is more to leading on renewable energy then to be photographed standing under a wind turbine to justify their green credentials.
Last month the Prime Minister said he believed renewables were "vital" for the future of the UK and were good for business, not just the environment. Yes, I agree BUT it is more than just about on-shore wind!