Farmers to 'plant' mini wind turbines

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Thousands of wind turbines could be "planted" in hedgerows on farmers' land in a new £200m energy scheme.

Proven Energy, a Scottish wind turbine manufacturer, claims that the miniature turbines - at 14.9m tall - will be less obtrusive than the much taller, traditional machines.

Chief executive Gordon Proven wants to install around half-a-dozen turbines on each of 5,000 farms across the UK. He said that dotting the turbines around the country, rather than concentrating them on high-density farms, would lessen their visual impact. He added that it would be easier to get planning permission for smaller turbines.

A spokeswoman from the Campaign to Protect Rural England said it welcomed such small-scale renewable energy projects, provided they did not damage hedgerows. Mr Proven said the group would be marketing the scheme nationally, and first met officials from the National Farmers Union of Scotland last week to discuss the plans. He said two farmers had already signed up.

Proven Energy has already installed various small turbines across the UK. This latest scheme represents a considerable expansion. It will also be the first time Proven Energy pays rent.

Each turbine can generate 15kW of electricity, enough to provide electricity for 15 homes. Proven Energy would pay rent to farmers to use the land, which it would recoup by selling the electricity into the grid.

Mr Proven declined to say how much rent it would pay farmers. However, he added: "We want to plant the turbines like spring onions. They will become an energy crop - literally. People forget that a few hundred years ago in East Anglia, there used to be 10,000 windmills."

A spokeswoman for National Farmers Union of Scotland said: "Farmers are businessmen. If they think this project is worthwhile they will be interested."