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200 wind farms needed in Cambridgeshire

More than 200 extra wind turbines will have to be built in the next two decades if Cambridgeshire is to get anywhere near carbon reduction goals.

However, council leaders and community groups are concerned about the impact on the landscape.

New research says 28 per cent of heat and electricity will have to come from renewable sources by 2030 if the county is to contribute to Government targets by cutting its carbon footprint by 43 per cent, and concludes wind will have to play an “important” role.

The report, drawn up for local authorities under a project called the Cambridgeshire Renewables Infrastructure Framework, presents several options for increasing renewable energy generation, but the only scenario which hits the target envisages the erection of 455 turbines over the next 20 years.

This would see 47 per cent of Cambridgeshire’s energy coming from renewable sources but, if new turbines were ruled out, the figure drops to just 19 per cent.

A third scenario under which 212 turbines would be built falls just short, at 26 per cent.

The report says the south and east of the county, plus Huntingdonshire, have the greatest potential for extra turbines.

Cllr Ray Manning, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said he preferred to focus on improving insulation and installing energy-efficient boilers.

Mr Manning said: “Although we are committed to renewable energy, we do not believe large-scale wind farms are necessarily right for this area, or acceptable to our residents, and full council has already said two or more turbines should not be favoured within 1.5 miles of any building.”

Cllr James Palmer, deputy leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said he was personally “highly dubious” about climate change and thought it was likely to be a natural phenomenon.

He said: “I worry about the benefits wind farms provide considering the cost to the taxpayer and to the landscape, particularly in the Cambridgeshire countryside, which has a very flat topography.”

Community groups have fought many campaigns against wind farms in Cambridgeshire, including at Cotton Farm, near Graveley.

Bev Gray, chairman of Cotton Farm Action Group, said: “Wind farm energy is simply not achievable and to build all those turbines is not efficient. It’s my belief there is nowhere in Huntingdonshire suitable for any such projects.”

The report says Cambridgeshire already has one of the highest renewable energy outputs in the UK and adds there is also an important role for solar panels, heat pumps, and generation of energy from biomass or waste.

Tony Juniper, the former executive director of Friends of the Earth and a Cambridge resident, said manmade climate change was real and would have “huge ramifications” for human civilisation, so there needed to be a “substantial increase” in energy generation from wind.

Mr Juniper said: “Wind farms have to be in the right place – there is no point putting wind farms where it’s not windy, and we don’t want them in places where they will cause avoidable damage to wildlife or historic landscapes.

“If you take those three criteria and put them on a map of the UK, you have still got a lot of opportunities and I think Cambridgeshire, with good strong and steady winds in the Fens, would be a good place to do it.”