The Renewable Energy Centre today announced its support for the recent planning approvals which have been given for a 23 turbine wind farm in Sutherland and a biodiesel refinery in Port Talbot, Wales.
The planning agreements have been long awaited but welcomed as a positive step towards reaching the renewable energy targets of 2016.
The wind turbine farm proposals in Achany, Sutherland have taken over two years to reach this stage and have been fraught with opposition from locals and early planning refusals. The farm is expected to generate 40MW (megawatt) of power, cost around 55 million pounds and be fully operational by 2010. Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) already have five installed wind farms in operation and currently are applying for permission to create seven more sites. Ian Marchant, Chief Executive at SSE said "In the last 15 months we have had three successes in the wind farm planning process. Nevertheless it remains much too time consuming and unpredictable to be an effective means of realising Scotland's and the UK's renewable energy requirements"
The Renewable Energy Centre said in a statement that the progress of wind farm applications is being hampered by planning authorities but it is a critical source of renewable energy for the UK. It highlighted that in order for the Government to even begin to meet the renewable energy targets, a clear and open path needs to be created for projects in wind and wave power generation.
Flex Fuels Energy has also received outline planning permission for a biodiesel refinery in Port Talbot having assessed the potential market for ongoing demand in the UK. Currently the demand for biodiesel is quite low in the UK but with the enforcement of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) legislation coming into effect in April 2008, this is likely to change. The RTFO requires fuel suppliers to ensure a percentage of their sales come from biofuels leading to at least 5% of all fuel sold on UK forecourts to have come from a renewable source. The plant which will be a biodiesel refinery and integrated solvent extraction seed press (integrated plant) expects to produce 200,000 tonne per year integrated plant.
The Renewable Energy Centre stated that the approval for the biodiesel plant would help to serve the UK market and promote the use of renewable fuels in order to continue to battle the effects of climate change. The Government is also likely to increase the percentage of biofuels usage throughout the UK to 10% in due course and with the increase in demand the industry has to be able and ready to cope with the supply. The Renewable Energy Centre also commented that in order to make the biofuels proposition more attractive to suppliers the government needed to review tax and vat on renewable products. A recent case was cited where a transportation firm was about to convert to a renewable fuel solution to save on cost and energy but the government claimed tax and vat was due on the fuel and the result was a more expensive solution and the idea abandoned.
Richard Simmons, Managing Director at The Renewable Energy Centre said "As with all these projects, the time it takes to reach even planning approval is currently prohibitive. We understand that there are protocols and environmental investigations which needs to take place but we believe action is the only remedy. People who are worried about the aesthetics of the view from their bedroom window should be considering what they will do when traditional forms of power to light and heat their homes, are no longer an option. The consequences of climate change and carbon emissions are happening now and people need to understand this so that renewable energy becomes the norm and not the unusual."
The Renewable Energy Centre reiterated its support for the wind farm and refinery projects but urged the government and local authorities to consider more proposals like these and to approve them quickly. It said that changes need to be made and the focus not on aspects which may affect current sensibilities but the long term future of power supply in the UK.
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